A Guide to Fixing the Basin Plan has been launched by the NSW Irrigators’ Council.
The submission to the Plan’s official 10-year review urges the Basin Ministerial Council to get out the other tools in the shed to deliver the Basin Plan in a way that directly targets the environmental degradation drivers that water volumes alone cannot fix.
“The centrepiece of the Basin Plan – Sustainable Diversion Limits – are now in place, with direct water recovery from farmers largely complete. The fact 98% of surface water recovery against the Bridging the Gap target has been achieved really challenges claims the Plan has been a failure,” NSWIC acting CEO, Christine Freak said.
“With Sustainable Diversion Limits in place, and being complied with, it’s time to move from a water-recovery plan, to a broader plan of management for the Basin.
“The largest ecological needs of the Basin cannot be addressed by just adding water alone.
“Focus must shift to directly targeting key degradation drivers such as invasive species like carp, habitat degradation, barriers to fish passage, fish screens on pumps, and forming partnerships with landholders for environmental water delivery, which water alone cannot fix.
“This can be done working together with Basin communities, and without having to remove socio-economic protections, nor impeding Australia’s food and fibre production capabilities.
“It’s possible to get to the finish line, and enable the environmental objectives of the Plan to be met, and even exceeded, in a way that works together with our Basin communities, rather than harms them.
“This will require the Basin Ministerial Council to utilise the other tools available that are fundamentally necessary, alongside environmental water, to meet these current ecological priorities,”
With 1 in 3 litres of irrigation water redirected to the environment, total diversions have dropped to just 28% of inflows, well within global standards.
“The remaining challenges cannot overshadow that progress,”
“Additional water recovery would just be tinkering at the edges of environmental management, until such programs are in place,” Ms Freak said.