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Don't let political grandstanding detract from Basin Plan's future

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling for Basin Governments to focus on strengthening the Murray Darling Basin Plan, rather than pulling it down.

The call comes following the Murray Darling Basin Authority's (MDBA) release of a review of Plan compliance on Saturday. 

NFF Vice President and Water Taskforce Chair Les Gordon said the Review raised issues warranting careful consideration but was not cause for the questioning of the Plan itself.

“The practices of the majority of Basin irrigators comply fully with the regulations governing the acquisition of water.

“This isn’t a subjective statement but one based on fact.

“In parts of the Basin where water is most highly regulated, state-of-the-art technology measures the extraction of water for irrigation in a fully compliant way."

The Review however, highlights issues with the management of water from ‘unregulated rivers’ which Mr Gordon said was an ongoing challenge.

“Farmers, Governments and local communities will need to commit to continue to work together to maximise economic, environmental and social outcomes, as outlined in the Northern Basin Review."

“We are seeing the positive environmental outcomes that are achieved from the deployment of environmental water, as managed by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and his state partners."

“Proof that the historic Murray Darling Basin Plan, is achieving what it was established to do.”

Mr Gordon said ongoing comments from politicians questioning the Plan's future were highly disappointing and not productive.

“Calls for a Royal Commission, exaggerations of non-compliance and threats to boycott established Basin processes are nothing but shameful political grandstanding.

“It beggars belief that the South Australian Premier would use the fortunes of farmers, regional communities and the environment, in a poorly veiled exercise to promote his own political endeavours.

“Basin stakeholders see through it and frankly, deserve better.

Calls for a Royal Commission, exaggerations of non-compliance and threats to boycott established Basin processes are nothing but shameful political grandstanding.
Les Gordon, NFF Vice President and Water Taskforce Chair

Mr Gordon said ongoing allegations of widespread non-compliance were unfortunately tarring irrigators with a label they were not deserving of.

“Irrigators are aggrieved that the reputation of their sector is being called into question by unsubstantiated allegations against a few and the showmanship of certain individuals for political point scoring.”  

“Let me be clear, the farm sector has zero tolerance for non-compliance for illegal water take.

“Illegal take is theft from all other water users, basin communities, taxpayers and the environment.

“Irrigators pay a considerable charge as part of their licence fees to fund compliance activities and in return, they expect effective compliance to be the carried out."

Mr Gordon said the challenge for all Basin stakeholders now was to engage, where appropriate, with the remaining inquiries and, following their release, to consider the recommendations for action.

"The Plan is a complex, evolving instrument. It requires clear, calm heads to oversee its implementation and to ensure that it delivers on its objectives." 

"As a nation, I have every faith, we can achieve just this."

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    There is a need for better recognition of Water availability in MDB Plan. Where Water is taken from a normally dry creek system as an opportunity and put into a storage to provide for irrigation in dry times that is a very different situation to those who take Water from a river system that always carries an amount of water. We are in a situation where our water from a creek system only enters the MDB system once in 25 years. However, during those 25 years there is the possibility of local water in our creek being caught and stored from time to time and is a licensed allocation that is included in the MDB numbers. Somehow this seems wrong when our water flows do not impact the greater basin environmentally year to year. We pay a lot of money for our licence and for many years do not have any water. We are also unable to transfer our allocation for use downstream. So why are we even included in the MDB? There is certainly a need for a review and I do agree with the concept and goals of better governance of water use. I do believe though storage of water in times of flooding can be both very productive and environmentally beneficial. An introduction of more appropriate licensing in certain areas would be most welcome especially in NSW.

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