Basin Plan to cen­tre on com­mu­ni­ties

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - Water Minister Delivers Basin Change -

The Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment is in­vest­ing $234.2 mil­lion to put com­mu­ni­ties at the cen­tre of the Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Plan by fo­cus­ing on the jobs and eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity the plan can gen­er­ate in re­gional ar­eas, ac­cord­ing to Wa­ter Min­is­ter Keith Pitt.

He launched the Mur­ray Dar­ling Com­mu­ni­ties In­vest­ment Pack­age de­tail­ing 11 new ini­tia­tives which he said would keep the Basin Plan on track while rul­ing out wa­ter buybacks.

Mem­ber for Far­rer Sus­san Ley said it is a pos­i­tive step for­ward for basin com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘Eigh­teen months ago I asked our Wa­ter Min­is­ter (then David Lit­tleproud) for an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the so­cial and eco­nomic im­pacts of the Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Plan here in the south­ern re­gion,’’ she said.

‘‘The Mor­ri­son Gov­ern­ment is act­ing on ad­vice from that report and tak­ing it even fur­ther. From bet­ter com­mu­nity en­gage­ment across the basin, through to lo­calised fund­ing to achieve wa­ter re­cov­ery that we can all sup­port, this is about em­pow­er­ing real peo­ple and real farm­ing fam­i­lies in ways that pro­tect our re­gional eco­nomic base.

‘‘Per­haps the most im­por­tant ini­tia­tive for us is a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the de­liv­ery of wa­ter through the choke and a care­ful eval­u­a­tion of what is hap­pen­ing with that wa­ter down­stream.

‘‘I have long been crit­i­cal of tak­ing an ad­di­tional 450GL from lo­cal ir­ri­ga­tion; and the Com­mon­wealth will now fo­cus the fu­ture of the (450GL) ef­fi­ciency pro­gram for off farm projects that avoid tak­ing wa­ter from the com­mu­nity.

‘‘Wa­ter Min­is­ter Keith Pitt has heard our mes­sage loud and clear and I be­lieve he un­der­stands the con­cerns and com­plaints I have been tak­ing from our com­mu­ni­ties to the Cab­i­net ta­ble.’’

Min­is­ter Pitt said his fo­cus will be on de­liv­er­ing the high­est ac­count­abil­ity when it comes to man­ag­ing wa­ter re­sources by es­tab­lish­ing a new statu­tory com­pli­ance role sep­a­rate from the MDBA.

‘‘I’m also reaf­firm­ing the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to re­cov­er­ing the 450GL needed to achieve en­hanced en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes but I will not put fur­ther pres­sure on ir­ri­ga­tors to re­cover this through buybacks. My fo­cus will be on off­farm ef­fi­cien­cies.

‘‘Com­mu­ni­ties have told us in no un­cer­tain terms that they are sick of be­ing talked at and not lis­tened to.

‘‘That feed­back came through loud and clear in the In­de­pen­dent As­sess­ment of So­cial and Eco­nomic Con­di­tions in the basin. It high­lighted the need to re­build trust with com­mu­ni­ties and to en­sure they can play an ac­tive role in shap­ing their own fu­tures.

‘‘I want to thank Rob­bie Sefton and her panel for the report which was a touch­stone for us in de­vel­op­ing the roadmap.

‘‘This report, along with the First Re­view of the Wa­ter for the En­vi­ron­ment Spe­cial Ac­count report, which I also re­leased, and rec­om­men­da­tions from pre­vi­ous re­views, give basin gov­ern­ments the guid­ance needed to put com­mu­ni­ties at the cen­tre of the plan.

‘‘It’s now time to fo­cus on de­liv­er­ing the projects that keep more than 600GL of wa­ter in the sys­tem for pro­duc­tive use and se­cur­ing the ad­di­tional 450GL to im­prove wa­ter qual­ity and river health, in par­tic­u­lar in the lower Mur­ray.

‘‘In the face of slower than an­tic­i­pated progress on the 450GL we have es­tab­lished the $38 mil­lion Sus­tain­ing River­land En­vi­ron­ments Pro­gram, de­signed to make sure the en­vi­ron­ment is sup­ported as we re­dou­ble ef­forts to re­cover the wa­ter needed through im­prov­ing the ef­fi­ciency of ir­ri­ga­tion net­works.

‘‘The need to im­prove com­mu­nity in­volve­ment has been a re­cur­ring is­sue since I be­came wa­ter min­is­ter which is why I am mak­ing $54 mil­lion avail­able to sup­port Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin com­mu­ni­ties and rivers through two com­pet­i­tive grant pro­grams – an ex­tended Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram and a new Healthy Rivers Pro­gram both of which are de­signed to turn lo­cal ideas into ac­tion,’’ Mr Pitt said.

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