Additional time is simply necessary, and an opportunity to get it done right, says the NSW Irrigators’ Council (NSWIC) in response to today’s announcement on delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
“There are other options to deliver the remainder of the Basin Plan without one more drop coming from food and fibre production,” said NSWIC Acting CEO, Christine Freak.
“Additional time is an opportunity to do it right, working together with Basin communities to support the range of positive initiatives put forward through the recent Federal Government public consultation.
“It is pleasing the MDBA has taken a position that projects to deliver the remaining environmental outcomes under the Plan remain worthwhile.
“Projects are simply not substitutable by just adding more water.
“Getting the environmental projects right must be the priority, but that will require adaptive management to do things differently.
“Significant progress has been made with Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDLs), the Basin Plan centrepiece, now in place, following over 2100 gigalitres of water being redirected back to the environment.
“The remaining challenges cannot overshadow this progress.
“More time should be used to adopt the innovative ideas put forward by communities to continue to meet the environmental outcomes of the Plan, alongside food and fibre production, without the need for further buybacks.”
A Victorian Government report found additional buybacks to make up expected shortfalls in the Basin Plan would lead to up to 17,500 hectares of horticulture being dried off in a repeat of the Millennium Drought, with an average annual cost in foregone production over $850 million per year.
Timeframe extensions and project flexibility have been recommended by official reviews of the Basin Plan for over 5 years.
The NSWIC Submission to the Federal Government consultation is available online.
 Under a scenario of the Federal Government buying back an additional 760 GL (372 GL for ‘Bridging the Gap’ plus 388 GL for Efficiency Projects)