Joyce caught out on water

Dairy News Australia - - NEWS -

WATER USE in the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin will be scru­ti­nised in an in­de­pen­dent re­view fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of water theft in NSW, the Fed­eral Govern­ment says. The basin-wide re­view of com­pli­ance with reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing water use fol­lows al­le­ga­tions in an ABC Four Cor­ners re­port that bil­lions of litres ear­marked for the en­vi­ron­ment have been di­verted for cot­ton ir­ri­ga­tion in NSW. The Turn­bull Govern­ment says it will seek the basin states’ agree­ment for an in­de­pen­dent ex­am­i­na­tion by the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity of whether state laws, water li­cence con­di­tions and statu­tory in­stru­ments are ap­pro­pri­ate and be­ing met. It will also look at the ad­e­quacy of water mea­sure­ment and mon­i­tor­ing ar­range­ments, and whether gov­er­nance ar­range­ments are strong enough to pre­vent water theft or mis­use. “Strong com­pli­ance regimes are just as im­por­tant for ir­ri­ga­tors as they are for the en­vi­ron­ment and basin com­mu­ni­ties,” Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull and Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Barn­aby Joyce said in a joint state­ment. Mr Joyce has been at­tacked for his de­scrip­tion of the Four Cor­ners tele­vi­sion pro­gram in an in­for­mal meet­ing in Shep­par­ton days af­ter the pro­gram was aired. He de­scribed the pro­gram as part of a cam­paign to de­prive ir­ri­ga­tors of water. He also told the pa­trons of Shep­par­ton’s Aus­tralia Ho­tel that the govern­ment had placed the water port­fo­lio in the agri­cul­ture min­istry to look af­ter ru­ral Aus­tralians and to wrest it back off “the gree­nies”. Mr Joyce stressed the al­le­ga­tions were only that, at this stage. “Just like there are cat­tle thieves, just like there are sheep thieves, there are car thieves, there are peo­ple who break into your house, there are peo­ple who steal water, “he said. “And if you break the law — and that is an al­le­ga­tion, not a fact, it’s an al­le­ga­tion — if you break the law, then you are go­ing to be dealt with in the same process as any other.” Aus­tralian Dairy Farm­ers (ADF) said it was con­cerned about the devel­op­ment of al­le­ga­tions made this past week re­gard­ing the mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of water from the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin. Chair of the ADIC Water Task­force, Daryl Hoey, said there are rules on water ex­trac­tion and it is only fair to all ir­ri­ga­tors and tax­pay­ers that the rules are en­forced. “The al­le­ga­tions on ABC’s Four Cor­ner’s pro­gram are se­ri­ous, and must be in­de­pen­dently and trans­par­ently in­ves­ti­gated to give ev­ery­one con­fi­dence that water is shared fairly and eq­ui­tably ac­cord­ing to the rules,” Mr Hoey said. “Not­with­stand­ing the is­sues raised in the Barwon-Dar­ling River catch­ment in the north­ern Basin, we be­lieve the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan, over­all, is far from bro­ken.” More than 2000 bil­lion litres of water have al­ready been re­cov­ered, mostly in the south­ern Basin, with im­proved en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes al­ready ev­i­dent five years only af­ter the Plan was signed in 2012. How­ever, while the Plan is on track to meet its 2750 gL tar­get by 2019, com­mu­ni­ties are pay­ing a high so­cio-eco­nomic cost as agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion de­clines across some re­gions. “The dairy in­dus­try is con­cerned that ad­di­tional ad­verse im­pacts will oc­cur if more water is re­cov­ered from ir­ri­ga­tors,” Mr Hoey said. “Any fail­ure to en­force com­pli­ance with the rules only adds in­sult to in­jury in ad­versely af­fected com­mu­ni­ties.”

Barn­aby Joyce meets farm­ers and ir­ri­ga­tors in Shep­par­ton last month.

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