National Farmers' Federation

NFF encourages ministers to look beyond Murray Darling Basin targets

Australia’s peak farming body has urged the state and federal water ministers at tomorrow’s Murray Darling Basin meeting to keep destructive water buybacks off the table, instead take a smart and strategic approach to achieving the Plan’s goals.

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) CEO Tony Mahar said the renewed attention on the 450GL recovery target had farmers and regional communities on edge and this simplistic focus did not equal success.

“Farmers have previously taken the extreme steps of rallying in Canberra on the Murray Darling Basin Plan. We do not want to see a return to this or to griping between jurisdictions,” he said.

“The Murray Darling Basin is far too important to pollute with political point scoring or a single-minded approach.

“We want collaboration between governments, industries and communities, namely to consider what lessons we have learnt so far and develop strategies that are right for our environment, our communities and our food production system.

The NFF has written to the water ministers ahead of Wednesday’s meeting asking that:

  • The Murray Darling Basin Plan incorporates insights from what’s been implemented so far for a more adaptive Plan;
  • That the socio-economic test is maintained and that it also takes account of similar cumulative impacts;
  • SDLAM projects be assessed for their progress against the Productivity Commission’s performance criteria; and,
  • If an assessment process is implemented, it be shared with industry and allow additional or replacement projects to be brought forward.

Given the renewed focus on the 450GL target, the NFF highlights that current legislation does not allow for buybacks.

Furthermore, the legally required socio-economic tests are not being applied as originally worded and the tests are only being assessed against the individual applying for efficiency funding. No impacts, including how more environmental water under the 450GL would be stored or delivered, are being assessed.

“We urge this ministerial council to look at ways to enhance environmental outcomes within the Basin Plan through community and stakeholder supported infrastructure investments,” Mr Mahar said.

“It must also consider other priorities and constraints, unresolved SDLAM projects and how water resource plans can be progressed fairly.

“This is the time to see what lessons can be learned to date and acknowledge what has been achieved so far, including recovering more than 2100GL from irrigated agriculture – that’s nearly half the amount stored in Lake Eucumbene – part of the Snowy Mountains Scheme and Australia’s third largest water storage.

“We would be extremely concerned if further water was recovered from the consumptive pool that caused adverse socio economic impacts that would have what would be likely very little environmental gain.”