The Murray-Darling Basin Plan Report Card published today demonstrates change is needed to get the remaining components of the Plan back on track.
“It should be no surprise,” said NSW Irrigators’ Council CEO Claire Miller.
“This reflects years of State and Federal Governments sitting back and not being prepared to be adaptive in addressing issues based on the implementation lessons learned over the last decade.
Official reviews and Basin communities have consistently said change is needed to allow new and amended projects into the mix, as many on the current list are poorly designed, lacked community consultation, and will not deliver optimal outcomes.
“If more time is needed to make those changes, then so be it,” said Ms Miller. “It’s better we get this done right. Otherwise, our environment and communities stand to lose.
“Projects under the Sustainable Diversion Limits Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) amplify benefits from the water already bought back. So, having good projects is important – more important than just buying ever more water from farmers.
“Great alternative projects are out there, such as the Murray Irrigation Limited proposal to use its channels and natural waterways to get more environmental water into floodplain sites. This is the kind of innovation we want to see leading to a better Plan.
“The solutions are out there; Basin Governments just need to find the will to change course.”
Ms Miller also pointed out that the Report Card has many positives, too.
“Under the Basin Plan and earlier reforms, 1 in 3 litres of irrigation water has been redirected to rivers, which is a big transition for both the environment and farmers,” said Ms Miller.
Diversions for irrigation, towns and industry in the Basin are now down to just 28% of inflows, well within international standards for a healthy river system.
“It is important the progress is not ignored. But while there has been positive environmental change, it really has come at a big cost to communities,” said Ms Miller.
“It is also pleasing to hear NSW has now finally submitted all Water Resource Plans, marking a big step forward. We expect the MDBA to assess them on the same basis as every other state.”