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Basin Review must consider triple bottom line

Having lived in St George, I am only too aware of the ramifications of zealot-like policy that doesn’t just hurt farmers but also the towns that rely on the economy that comes from irrigation.

Having lived in St George, I am only too aware of the ramifications of zealot-like policy that doesn’t just hurt farmers but also the towns that rely on the economy that comes from irrigation.

Yes, we understand that changes were necessary to ensure the health of the environmental and the sustainable use of water, including in some instances, addressing over-allocation.

But the clumsiest way to achieve this is by just buying back water.

Fish-ladders and cold-water curtains are amongst a ‘toolkit’ of measures being proposed by local communities and industry groups as an alternative to existing water recovery targets in the Murray Darling basin, that threaten the economic and social fabric of many communities.

Cold water from the bottom of a dam will kill fish as quickly as no water will. Up to 80 per cent of the biomass in many sections of the Basin is now carp.

Today the Murray-Darling Basin Authority will consider a range of recommendations from the Northern Basin Review. This consultative process aimed to find new, practicable ways to protect the Basin, both environmentally and economically. I am grateful for the exhaustive effort that industry and community groups have put into this process over the past two years. The Authority’s recommendations will be presented to the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council in November.

New information, revealed in the review, showed the pursuit of existing water recovery targets in the Plan would have significant impacts on the economies and social fabric of several northern Basin communities.

I expect the Authority to make recommendations to give our northern Basin communities the best future
The Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, Deputy Prime Minster

We acknowledge poor decisions of previous governments. For example, the purchase of nearly all the water licenses around Collarenebri. I do not want to be the minister responsible for any further Collarenebri decisions. Nor the minister responsible for any further Toorale decisions, where water was purchased from a place that couldn’t even deliver that water back to the river.

Water recovery targets in the Macquarie Valley were back-engineered to simply reflect what had  already been recovered by the Labor Government’s ‘no regrets buybacks’, rather than being based on considered scientific analysis.

The take-home message from these consultations is that we can achieve better triple-bottom line outcomes by being smarter and more adaptive in water management.

The Basin Plan is a world-first in whole-of-system cross-jurisdictional water management. Our approach needs to be flexible and responsive.

I expect the Authority to make recommendations to give our northern Basin communities the best future, a healthy environment and sustainable use of our most scarce and precious resource.

The Federal Coalition stands ready to respond positively to recommendations, should they appropriately reflect the outcomes of the consultation and an improved triple-bottom line.

Too often regional Australians are told what is best for their families, communities and local environments from offices in capital cities.

The Northern Basin Review presents the Authority with an opportunity to be adaptive and partner with communities to deliver the best outcomes for regional Australia and that’s what I expect to see.

The Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP is the Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the Nationals, and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.

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