Ley wants re­port on state of south­ern basin

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - OUT & ABOUT -

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.’’

Sus­san Ley.

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