Media Release


MDBA needs to break silence on irrigation impacts

Social and economic factors continue to be neglected in communications from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and its associated advisory bodies.

NSW Irrigators’ Council CEO Claire Miller said the latest communique from the MDBA’s Advisory Committee on Social, Economic and Environmental Sciences continues the neglect of social and economic factors, focusing on only environmental research and science.

“Irrigated agriculture and the Basin communities that depend on this sector are bearing the brunt of the Murray-Darling Basin reform,” Ms Miller said.

“They alone are paying the price through higher water costs squeezing farmers’ margins, reduced production in droughts, and lost jobs on farms, in local processing and beyond in small towns.

“The recovery of more than 3000 billion litres of water since 2000 under the Basin Plan and earlier reforms has improved the environment’s resilience to drought, by eroding these communities’ resilience to survive droughts.

“Our farmers and their communities are concerned that irrigated agriculture barely even rates a mention in MDBA forum discussions about healthy Basin communities.

“And it remains all but invisible in documents such as the MDBA’s recent Early Insights Paper on its research informing the 2025 Basin Plan evaluation.

“The Basin local government areas identified by ABAREs as most vulnerable to further water recovery are all irrigation-dependent communities.

“They are waiting for the MDBA and its advisory bodies to properly ‘see’ them, and put their social and economic factors on an equal footing with the effort and funding going into the science.

“Irrigation farmers are not alone. Their councils and communities agree further water recovery will not fix what is still making our rivers sick.

“The Murray-Darling Basin is a vital resource for Australia, and its management must reflect the interconnected nature of its environmental, social, and economic dimensions. The MDBA must break its silence on irrigated agriculture’s social and economic dimensions. It is essential for the future of the Basin and all its communities.”

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