Ley wants report on state of southern basin
Is the NSW Murray collateral damage in the quest to deliver the MurrayDarling Basin Plan in full and on time?
That is the question being asked by several locals this week following last week’s announcement the Deniliquin Rice Mill would start a staged closure from January, which could result in 100 SunRice jobs being lost.
It’s just the latest in a long line of social and economic impacts being felt in the district since the release of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Just a week earlier, it was reported that farmers in the Wakool district are being forced to find work interstate just to earn enough money to maintain their stock and farms in an environment which does not allow them to grow a summer crop.
It’s the same water resource restrictions which have forced SunRice to implement is ‘‘reconfiguration’’ plan at the Deniliquin and Leeton mills.
Rules associated with the Water Sharing Plans means the NSW Murray remains on a zero per cent general security water allocation following Monday’s announcement, while at the same time South Australia is on 100 per cent and water is still flowing in large volumes to the end of the system.
While saying there is no conscious Commonwealth plan to make the NSW Murray the ‘sacrificial lamb’ in its quest to deliver the Basin Plan, Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley did say it was one of the ‘‘unintended consequences’’.
Ms Ley said one of the first ways to ease the impact is to ‘‘rule a line under that our region will not contribute to the 450 gigalitres upwater’’.
‘‘So that means no 450 gigalitres, and I have asked the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to stop consulting on measures that are never going to happen,’’ Ms Ley said.
‘‘There are two main unintended consequences of the Basin Plan. One is the high temporary price of water which, even when we do have access to water, means rice is marginally viable.
‘‘The other is the use of general security to grow permanent plantings, for example almonds, mainly above the (Barmah) choke.
‘‘There are many others, but these two stand out as the most unhelpful for the future of the industry.’’
Ms Ley said she is now pursuing the development of a ‘state of the southern basin’ report, with the aim of eliminating any future ‘unintended consequences’.
‘‘It needs to say here is the evidence, show us where the water is going and what the future aspects are,’’ she said.
‘‘I want scientists and economists to get together the facts and evidence. I want them to get information from the MDBA to describe the proposal for general security irrigation in our region.
‘‘We need to know the effect of those things we didn’t know would would impact on us so heavily when the Basin Plan started — the unintended consequences, and what the government should do (about them).
‘‘It needs to add further weight to the argument that no more water is to be removed from the region, including the upwater. I think what is a sensible proposal from our farmers, is that our distribution networks can be used to deliver environmental water at a lower cost and using less water.
‘‘We need to know what are the ingredients for how decisions are made and what does the future hold. We need this report to instead focus on the end user — we can’t have any bias in it.
‘‘We are here because water allocations is where it is, but it’s not good enough to be in a situation where we don’t have enough information to inform our futures.’’