Time to stop play­ing po­lit­i­cal games

Shepparton News - Country News - - OPINION -

Fed­eral Water Min­is­ter Keith Pitt’s an­nounce­ment ear­lier this month that the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment was rul­ing out buy­ing water en­ti­tle­ments from farm­ers to meet water-sav­ing tar­gets set by the Murray-Dar­ling Basin Plan is not as cer­tain as re­ported.

As we have all come to re­alise with ev­ery up­side there is al­ways a catch— the catch is there are no leg­isla­tive guide­lines in place to en­sure these prom­ises and the ad­just­ment mech­a­nisms they hope to re­place the buy­back water is a false pos­i­tive.

Fed­eral Mem­ber for Far­rer Sus­san Ley ad­vised rep­re­sen­ta­tives that the prom­ise of no fur­ther water buy­backs would take place through reg­u­la­tion.

Our in­ves­ti­ga­tions have con­cluded that the only way a reg­u­la­tion can be used is to first have an amend­ment to the leg­isla­tive act.

The Coali­tion’s plan is to re­cover the re­main­ing vol­ume of water re­quired un­der the basin plan through in­fras­truc­ture pro­grams like the Sus­tain­able Di­ver­sion Lim­its Ad­just­ment Mech­a­nism projects.

Some projects which have re­cently been given the green light will ac­tu­ally re­sult in run­ning creeks and rivers at ca­pac­ity.

De­liv­er­ing water to lands which have been re­cently de­vel­oped out­side of tra­di­tional ir­ri­ga­tion ar­eas by mostly large cor­po­ra­tions into per­ma­nent plant­ings.

Mean­while fourth and fifth gen­er­a­tion fam­ily farm­ers watch so­called en­vi­ron­men­tal water flow­ing past.

How­ever, some of this ‘‘en­vi­ron­men­tal water’’ will be re­badged and sold as sup­ple­men­tary flows (this is not well re­ported by gov­ern­ment or the Murray-Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity).

While this may ben­e­fit those who had the amaz­ing in­sight to build mas­sive gov­ern­mentsub­sidised dams to har­vest the water once it be­comes sup­ple­men­tary, many fam­ily farm­ers con­tinue to miss out.

One has to ask: who are the main ben­e­fi­cia­ries of these ef­fi­ciency projects and at whose ex­pense?

Small creeks which are to be ‘‘re-en­gi­neered’’ water sav­ings projects are re­ferred to as ef­flu­ent creeks by bu­reau­crats and con­sid­ered in­ef­fi­cient due to water losses (these creeks are of­ten a high source of ground­wa­ter re­plen­ish­ment).

When Fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Sus­san Ley was ques­tioned about the eco­log­i­cal health of these ar­eas and the im­pacts of cut­ting off or re­vers­ing creek water sup­ply, she said the Com­mon­wealth En­vi­ron­men­tal Water Holder would sup­ply ad­di­tional water to main­tain creek health.

Does that not con­tra­dict the orig­i­nal pur­pose of an ef­fi­ciency sav­ing project?

All we seem to get is po­lit­i­cal game-play­ing and a bu­reau­cracy that does not un­der­stand ef­fec­tive water man­age­ment.

Mean­while, the fam­ily farmer and rivers con­tinue to pay the price.

— Paul Pierotti Mur­rumbidgee In­dus­try and Agri­cul­ture Com­mu­ni­ties

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