National Farmers' Federation

Farmers consider efficiency measure advice and note more work needs to be done

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) says the release of a study into delivering efficiency measures in the Murray Darling Basin was another important step towards the continued effort of implementing the Basin Plan.
The analysis was borne out of an agreement in March, by Basin Ministers to commission an independent assessment of methods to recover 450 gigalitres of Basin water while ensuring neutral or improved socio-economic outcomes.
The results of the assessment, carried out by Ernest and Young (EY), were released today.
NFF Water Taskforce Les Gordon said it was crucial that Basin ministers committed to getting on with the job of putting the plan into action, in a manner that minimised the negative impact on communities and industries, many of which were already at tipping point.
“An implemented plan will provide farmers, our value adding processing industries and Basin communities, with the confidence to invest in the future.
“We must find a pathway forward to this point,” Mr Gordon said.
“The Basin Plan is an historic compromise. While we are seeing the positive environmental outcomes that are achieved from the deployment of environmental water, it is important to note that increasing the environment’s share of water has come at a socio-economic cost for our Basin industries and communities.”
“In the relation to the on-farm recovery of water, the report suggests that water efficiency measures could have a net productive benefit to water users as reductions in future production are offset, as long as increased production is achieved in the short term.
“This is concerning as the broad view in the irrigation industry is that most of the easy gains to be made through water use efficiency have already been achieved in many parts of the Basin, with the ability to pursue water recovery through on-farm irrigation upgrade programs more difficult now than in the early stages of the Basin Plan.
“With the real value of irrigated agriculture stagnating in the Basin since 2001, while the rest of the country has seen 11% growth, short term gains may be unrealistic, putting at great risk the ability to achieve on-farm efficiency measures without negative socio-economic impact,” Mr Gordon said.
The NFF’s view on the recovery of the additional 450GL has always been clear: Governments must ensure that a genuine approach, underpinned by a robust methodology, is in place.
“This approach must provide all stakeholders with the confidence that the ‘neutral or improved social and economic outcomes’ test of the plan can be met, and that the potential impacts of higher flows can be fairly managed.
“As is evidenced by the EY Report, the MDBA’s Basin Plan Evaluation 2017 and several other recent reports – a range of positive and adverse socio-economic impacts can result from the recovery of water” Mr Gordon said.
“However, what we know as water users and what the detailed research published shows, is that additional water recovery – regardless of the recovery mechanism – will have significant adverse social and economic impacts on particular regions.
“We need a commitment from Governments that the 450GL efficiency measures meet a realistic test for positive or no negative community impact prior to implementation.
“It is crucial that we continue the work required to thoroughly investigate the potential of water recovery through efficiency measures, region by region, project by project.”
Mr Gordon said the NFF encouraged the carrying out of a ‘sense check’ of the EY Report with Basin stakeholders.
“The NFF would be happy to assist to facilitate these conversations.”

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