National Farmers' Federation

D-Day arrives for the final Murray-Darling Basin Plan

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has today acknowledged the release of the final Murray-Darling Basin Plan by Minister Burke.
“Although the Plan remains flawed, from what we’ve seen to date, it is pretty clear that the Government has listened to the concerns of the NFF, farmers and regional communities on some, but not all, of the critical issues in the Basin Plan,” NFF President Jock Laurie said.
“The NFF has called for five things in the development of the Basin Plan: a balanced outcome, a focus on recovering water from infrastructure, win/win outcomes for the environment and for communities, an extended timeframe for delivery and for Parliament to have oversight of any adjustments. So, has the Government listened?
“From the very beginning, the NFF has been calling for balance in the Basin Plan: balance that ensures strong regional communities, sustainable food production and healthy rivers. The Government has moved closer to the balance we’ve been seeking but flaws remain – the final Plan still puts the needs of the environment ahead of the needs of the towns, communities and farmers within the Basin. This was always going to be a challenge, with the very framework from which the Plan started, the Water Act, skewed towards the environment – however this is no excuse for the impact this has had, and will continue to have, on regional communities.
“In addition, the NFF called for a focus on recovering water from infrastructure over buy-back following an initial myopic approach that saw the majority of water for the environment being returned through water purchases – essentially stripping water out of agricultural production.
“Through the extensive efforts of the NFF, our members and irrigator bodies, we have achieved a much greater focus on infrastructure, particularly the inclusion of state projects to return 650 gigalitres to the system via infrastructure. This is positive step for the NFF, for farmers and for the community, and a demonstration from the Government that they have listened. What we now want to see is a move from Government to cap future buybacks, to provide confidence to farmers and the community.
“Win/win outcomes are those that have environmental benefits without negatively impacting on regional communities and jobs. Although the Government has so far failed to rule out a cap on future water buybacks, their commitment to recovering water through infrastructure has moved us closer to a win/win outcome that minimises the impact on our farmers and our communities. A partial win for the NFF and farmers, a partial plus for the Government.
“We also sought from Government an extended timeframe on the implementation of infrastructure, and they have listened: pushing out the date for completion of infrastructure projects to 2024. Again, a win for the NFF and farmers, a plus for the Government.
“Finally, we called for Parliament to have oversight of any adjustments to be made to the sustainable diversion limit, rather than the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, and the Minister has agreed. A strong win for the NFF, and a plus for the Government.
“Essentially, the Plan is still far from perfect; however, it is positive to see that the Government has listened to many of our concerns. Ultimately, the fate of the Basin Plan, and the farmers and regional communities that live within the Basin, now rests with Parliament,” Mr Laurie said.

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