Basin Plan re­quires lo­cal in­put

The Free Press (Corowa) - - FRONT PAGE -

Lo­cal coun­cils must have a greater role in im­ple­ment­ing the Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Plan ac­cord­ing to Mur­ray Dar­ling As­so­ci­a­tion Re­gion 2 Chair Pe­ter Mans­field.

The Moira Shire Coun­cil­lor said the MDA is made up of more than 160 coun­cils within the basin who have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of their com­mu­ni­ties and how the plan af­fects them.

Mr Mans­field said the basin plan to have gov­ern­ment’s de­cide on a fur­ther 450gi­gal­itres (Gl) of up river sav­ings will only be re­moved from pro­duc­tive use (ir­ri­ga­tion) if it can be proven there is no so­cial or eco­nomic neg­a­tive im­pact.

He said it will also be a very com­plex is­sue in that any wa­ter re­cov­ered would be dif­fi­cult to trans­fer be­cause of the Barmah Choke.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to man­age the trans­fer of wa­ter as the Barmah Choke only al­lows 10,000 me­gal­itres to pass through per day without flood­ing the Barmah For­est. It’s very dif­fi­cult to jus­tify th­ese up river trans­fers.”

Mr Mans­field said wa­ter sav­ing and trans­fers from this area have al­ready been around 20 per cent.

“We have al­ready done much of the heavy lift­ing in terms of trans­fer­ring pro­duc­tive wa­ter from this area,” he said.

“Much of this has come from farm­ers sell­ing their wa­ter rights and tak­ing up al­ter­na­tive farm­ing meth­ods.”

Mr Mans­field said although the ex­tra en­vi­ron­men­tal flows have seen an im­prove­ment in the river, par­tic­u­larly down­stream of the Yar­ra­wonga Weir there has been con­sid­er­able eco­nomic and so­cial neg­a­tive flow-on af­fects in ar­eas such as lo­cal dairy in­dus­try.

A Fron­tier Eco­nom­ics re­port re­leased ear­lier this year, found that Vic­to­rian ir­ri­ga­tors who sold wa­ter en­ti­tle­ments to the Com­mon­wealth are now more re­liant on al­lo­ca­tion pur­chases than they would be without the plan.

The re­port found that wa­ter has be­come “more scarce” as a re­sult of horticultural ex­pan­sion and the basin plan.

“This has left Vic­to­ria’s ir­ri­gated dairy in­dus­try par­tic­u­larly ex­posed.’’

“It has also left Vic­to­rian hor­tic­u­lu­ral­ists ex­posed to the risk of low al­lo­ca­tions.’’

The Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin plan is seek­ing to find 2750 Gl of wa­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment.

Ir­ri­ga­tors and farm groups have been warn­ing that any move to take more wa­ter away from pro­duc­tive agri­cul­ture will dam­age re­gional com­mu­ni­ties.

The states and the Com­mon­wealth are still look­ing at whether a fur­ther 450 Gl (called up-wa­ter), could be re­moved from the sys­tem to ben­e­fit river flows.

In­de­pen­dent re­ports have iden­ti­fied that the dairy in­dus­try is most vul­ner­a­ble to the re­moval of wa­ter from agri­cul­ture, and in a drought hor­ti­cul­ture could also be se­ri­ously af­fected.

A re­port by con­sul­tants, RMCG has found that dairy pro­duc­tion al­ready lost $200m a year, mixed farm­ing al­ready lost $25m a year and 1000 jobs had al­ready been lost.

Farm­ers are pay­ing about $20 mil­lion a year more for tem­po­rary wa­ter.

The Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Author­ity is now fi­nal­is­ing a list of ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture projects de­signed to de­liver en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter more ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently in the south­ern end of the basin.

If those are adopted, and the states can prove that they can achieve the same en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact by de­liv­er­ing less wa­ter more ef­fi­ciently, the ‘ad­just­ment mech­a­nism’ can be used to re­duce the amount of wa­ter it ac­quires by up to 650 gi­gal­itres.

Pe­ter Mans­field is Chair of Re­gion 2 for Mur­ray Dar­ling As­so­ci­a­tion.

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