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Crucial decision points loom for Basin ministers

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is reminding Murray-Darling Basin Governments of the importance of key upcoming decisions on the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

NFF Vice President and Water Taskforce Chair Les Gordon said these key decision points had always been an integral part of the Basin Plan that was agreed to by the Parliament in 2012 with bipartisan support.

On Thursday the Prime Minister will meet with the First Ministers of Basin states, at a side meeting to Friday’s Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting in Canberra.

The group will discuss the credible plan Basin Water Ministers have put in place to reach agreement on key elements of the plan – including a revised water recovery target in the Northern Basin and adjustments to sustainable diversion limits in the Southern Basin.

In the Northern Basin, the independent Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has recommended an adjustment to northern basin recovery targets.

“Four years on, after significant investment in new knowledge, and in consultation with the community and stakeholders, the MDBA’s recommendation is to reduce water recovery targets from 390 gigalitres to 320GL.

“While we hold the view that this adjustment doesn’t go far enough to relieve the socio-economic impacts inflicted by the Basin Plan on northern Basin communities, it is a step in the right direction," Mr Gordon said.

Governments must deliver the full 650GL down-water offset
Les Gordon, NFF Vice President

He said in making the recommendation, the MDBA had highlighted that the environmental outcomes possible from the reduction in the water recovery target would be slightly reduced.

“However, the MDBA is confident that with ‘toolkit’ measures designed to improve water management and investment in complementary measures, any reduction in outcomes will be minimised."

Mr Gordon said importantly, in making these adjustments, the MDBA had demonstrated that the minimal change in average flows from the Northern Basin system to South Australia had no material impact on achieving the Plan’s overall outcomes in the Southern Basin.

“Similarly, the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism in the Southern Basin has always been a part of the Basin Plan agreed to by the Parliament.

“This mechanism enables the water recovery to be reduced by 650GL where equivalent environmental outcomes can be achieved with less water.

"The mechanism also enables water recovery to be increased where it can be demonstrated that this can be achieved with neutral or beneficial socio-economic impacts,” Mr Gordon said.

The NFF is encouraging Basin states to ensure they nominate a comprehensive suite of projects that can credibly deliver the full 650GL down-water component of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Offset by 30 June.

“The 30 June deadline is critical,” Mr Gordon said.

“It is our last chance to have down-water projects put on the table to be considered by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council. We cannot miss this opportunity.”

Mr Gordon said the NFF’s position on down-water had always been clear.

“Governments must deliver the full 650GL down-water offset as this enables the Plan to achieve the same environmental outcomes while avoiding further socio-economic pain for Basin communities.”

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