National Farmers' Federation

New Basin Plan could be a disaster for agriculture

“For agriculture, the new Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a train smash waiting to happen,” is the assessment of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) four months out from a draft Plan being presented, President David Crombie declared today.
“The NFF’s assessment follows months of discussion with the Federal Government and the new Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) over the water reform agenda.
“The Basin Plan is supposed to set new caps on water extraction in the Murray-Darling Basin to optimise economic, social and environmental outcomes, as stipulated in the Water Act 2007.
“All indications are that this balance will be non-existent. From what we have gathered the agenda within the MDBA is to apportion the environment all priorities, with agricultural production getting what’s leftover.
“This is not a balanced approach. Such an outcome would decimate farm production across the Basin and the jobs and communities that rely on it. It must be remembered that the Basin accounts for 40% of Australia’s total agricultural production.
“Further, while the new regime will make farmers accountable for water use, the water being tapped by federal and state governments for meeting environmental needs will not be subjected to anywhere near the same scrutiny. In other words, it’s an unaccountable pool.
“Our members have indicated that they are only now, four months out, being asked about the potential socio-economic impact on regional communities, businesses, farms or families.
“That’s not fair and Australian farmers and irrigators will not cop it. These are complex issues that cannot be rushed.
“We have been deeply involved in good faith discussions to progress sensible water reform with the Minister, her department and the newly formed MDBA, but at this stage it’s heading for a disaster.
“This is not about agriculture versus the environment. Irrigators and regional communities want healthy rivers too, in fact, they depend on them.
“The NFF has supported the principles of water reform for many years but the implementation is just not cutting it, and the uncertainty in our communities is driving them to breaking point.”

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