National Farmers' Federation

Burke clear to bring MDBA to heel

“LEGAL advice released by Federal Water Minister Tony Burke today will come as a relief to all with a stake in sensible water reform in the Murray-Darling Basin – none more so than farmers and their besieged communities,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie declared.
“The severe water cuts proposed by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) hang like a sword over the heads of farm families, regional businesses and entire communities. They have copped the brunt of a flawed process.
“There’s still a long way to go in rebuilding confidence and trust, which has been shattered since the release of the Guide 17 days ago. However, we commend Minister Burke for seeking legal advice and ascertaining what room he and the Authority have to maneuver within the Water Act 2007.
“Farmers are committed to continual improvement in how we manage water use in the Basin in a workable way that balances economic, environmental and social needs.
“To this end, a robust analysis of engineering options to maximise water savings for environmental assets, while easing wholesale cuts to water for food and fibre production, must be a priority. The Minister’s public recognition of this sensible measure today, and his reassurance that buy-backs will only be from willing sellers, will be welcomed by aggrieved Basin communities.
“Had the MDBA dealt with us upfront over the 18 months it took to come up with its flawed assumptions, we could have headed-off this debacle and saved a lot of people undue fear and anxiety.
“So the lesson moving forward must be for an open, transparent, inclusive and genuinely consultative approach.”
Specifically, the NFF says the Minister must instruct the MDBA to:
* Take a triple bottom line approach, including undertaking rigorous assessment of water-saving environmental works to ensure accountability in delivering environmental outcomes. This must detail and quantify water needs, assess water availability and explore a range of options to achieve long term sustainability; and
* Ensure all environment water in the Basin is pooled as part of the calculations. Under the Guide, the MDBA has effectively quarantined some water from its analysis.

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