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MDBA announcement fails Northern Basin communities

A coalition of industry and community groups has slammed proposed changes to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, saying the proposal would still take too much water from production and hurt communities as a result.

The comments come following the release by the MDBA’s Northern Basin Review recommendation that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan be adjusted to require a total of 320GL of water to be recovered.

Releasing the proposed amendments today, MDBA Chief Executive Phillip Glyde claimed the reduction would help save jobs in the Northern Basin.

"Reducing the water recovery target from 390 GL to 320 GL in the north will save about 200 jobs in irrigation dependent communities while continuing to deliver about the same level of environmental outcomes.”

Other proposed Basin Plan amendments include:

  • a decrease in three groundwater area water recovery targets; and,
  • some other practical changes to the Basin Plan.

Industry stakeholders, however, say the changes fall short. The #MoreThanFlow Campaign released a response to the proposal today outlining its concerns.

“The #MoreThanFlow campaign position is clear - any recommendation that sets a target beyond the current 278 GL of water recovery would be unacceptable to farmers and communities.

“We have always advocated that complementary measures can deliver better environmental outcomes.  While we acknowledge that the MDBA has recommended some of these measures, a recovery target of 320GL will still result in further unacceptable job losses for local communities that are already suffering.

“We know from the MDBA’s own research that the communities in the Northern Basin are under extreme stress. Overall community wellbeing is declining and individuals in these communities have some of the lowest levels of personal wellbeing in the nation."

There is nothing more powerful than the personal stories told by the people of the valleys up and down the northern basin
Michael Murray, #MoreThanFlow Campaign spokesperson

The #MoreThanFlow group said it could not support any recommendation that will inflict more pain on communities, or unilaterally reduce the reliability of entitlements. It encouraged interested parties to attend consultation sessions and lodge a submission.

“Water recovery in the Basin has significantly impacted rural communities and I strongly urge the people who will be directly affected by the MDBA’s recommendations to attend the community meetings.  The MDBA must hear from those directly impacted. There is nothing more powerful than the personal stories told by the people of the valleys up and down the northern basin,” Mr Murray said.

Following today’s announcement Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, has announced a Northern Basin Water Taskforce will be established to ensure further water recovery in the Northern Basin is managed in a way that avoids putting further strain on Basin communities.

“I welcome the reduced target and don’t want to see any more water taken out of Basin communities than is absolutely necessary to secure the long-term health of the system,” Minister Joyce said.

“The establishment of a taskforce, which will work with communities and industry to look at how the remaining water recovery can be managed whilst achieving a win for farmers, communities and the environment, is another step we are taking to deliver security.

“Through the taskforce we will be looking at investing in modern and efficient irrigation infrastructure which would both contribute water savings towards bridging the gap, and increase farm productivity. I strongly encourage irrigators who might be interested in taking part to contact the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources,” Mr Joyce said.

The #MoreThanFlow campaign will publish more of its analysis of the MDBA’s recommendation in the coming days.  Keep up to date by visiting the campaign page at http://farmers.org.au/morethanflow and sign up to receive our email updates

Visit the Events section of AustralianFarmers for more information on regional consultation sessions.

The #MoreThanFlow campaign is supported by the following organisations:

AgForce Queensland, Border Rivers Food & Fibre, Cotton Australia, Gwydir Valley Irrigators’ Association, Macquarie River Food & Fibre, Namoi Water, National Farmers' Federation, National Irrigators' Council, NSW Farmers, NSW Irrigators' Council, Queensland Farmers' Federation, Smart Rivers.

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