Pro­duc­ers join calls for Royal Com­mis­sion

Southern Riverina news - - RURAL OUTLOOK -

There is rare agree­ment between two groups which have gen­er­ally been on op­po­site sides of the wa­ter pol­icy de­bate.

Food and fi­bre pro­duc­ers in the NSW Mur­ray re­gion are sup­port­ing the lat­est calls from South Aus­tralians, in par­tic­u­lar their parochial Se­na­tor Nick Xenophon, for in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan’s im­ple­men­ta­tion.

He has again called for a Royal Com­mis­sion into as­pects of the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan, with fel­low state Se­na­tor Sarah Han­son-Young re­quest­ing a re­view of the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Author­ity, which is im­ple­ment­ing the plan.

It fol­lows an ABC re­port re­cently that re­vealed fur­ther prob­lems with the Basin Plan and claimed there was a fail­ure of the MDBA to lis­ten to the con­cerns of af­fected farm­ers.

South­ern Rive­rina Ir­ri­ga­tors chair Graeme Pyle, who rep­re­sents 1,600 food and fi­bre pro­duc­ers, said there had been calls from this re­gion for a Royal Com­mis­sion for nearly two years.

‘‘At last we have some­thing in com­mon with South Aus­tralia, as peo­ple from var­i­ous parts of the basin start to ap­pre­ci­ate the on­go­ing re­fusal of the Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Author­ity to lis­ten to the con­cerns of lo­cals, in­clud­ing farm­ers,’’ Mr Pyle said.

‘‘To get the best out­comes, the MDBA and gov­ern­ments need to work on pos­i­tive so­lu­tions with those most af­fected by the plan.

‘‘En­sur­ing we have good wa­ter pol­icy to al­low for pro­duc­tion is para­mount for our re­gional com­mu­ni­ties, our na­tion, and the starv­ing peo­ple through­out the world who we are able to feed.

‘‘But try­ing to de­velop good wa­ter pol­icy has been ig­nored over the past decade, and as a re­sult we now have groups and in­di­vid­u­als from through­out the Basin start­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate that this plan is far from bal­anced.’’

Mr Pyle said any Royal Com­mis­sion or in­quiry needs to look at the en­tire plan and its im­pact across the en­tire basin, not lim­ited to a sin­gle is­sue in one area.

‘‘Gov­ern­ments have strug­gled to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of af­ford­able and re­li­able pro­duc­tive wa­ter, in­clud­ing the flow-on ef­fects to re­gional com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘A pro­duc­tive agri­cul­tural sec­tor cre­ates jobs, from spray­ing, sow­ing, fenc­ing and bal­ing con­trac­tors, to truck driv­ers, book­keep­ers, hair­dressers and the lo­cal restau­rant and supermarket.

‘‘We all ac­knowl­edge that a Basin Plan is needed — what we want is a con­sul­ta­tive and col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach that de­vel­ops a bal­anced plan which sup­ports the en­vi­ron­ment, as well as food and fi­bre pro­duc­tion. So far, that hasn’t hap­pened.’’

Mr Pyle added that for the past 10 years, since the 2007 Wa­ter Act, farm­ers and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties have bent over back­wards to be part of the process, but have con­tin­u­ally been ig­nored.

‘‘Re­gional com­mu­ni­ties have been warn­ing gov­ern­ments and the MDBA about ad­verse im­pacts of the plan, but they fall on deaf ears. Those who live and breathe the sys­tem have the knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence to help pro­vide so­lu­tions.’’

Mr Pyle said few peo­ple un­der­stand the po­ten­tial third party im­pacts, in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age, from high flows under the plan.

‘‘We would wel­come a visit by politi­cians from all per­sua­sions so they can be shown what the ‘just add wa­ter’ ap­proach is do­ing to our sys­tem.’’

Mr Pyle said a cur­rent is­sue around gen­eral se­cu­rity wa­ter al­lo­ca­tions is fur­ther proof of the need for ad­just­ments to wa­ter pol­icy.

‘‘At present my mem­bers are on a 20 per­cent al­lo­ca­tion, while at the same time there are con­cerns about flood­ing, with both Hum and Dart­mouth Dams more than 80 per­cent full.

‘‘How lu­di­crous is that? Amid flood fears our food and fi­bre pro­duc­ers are al­lo­cated a fifth of their en­ti­tle­ments. Surely this tells our gov­ern­ments that wa­ter shar­ing rules must be ad­dressed. It is yet an­other is­sue in a fun­da­men­tally flawed Basin Plan that risks go­ing down in his­tory as a waste of $13 bil­lion of tax­pay­ers’ money.’’

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