No trust in plan
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan continues to be plagued by a lack of trust, with farmers, environmentalists and even Federal Water Minister David Littleproud voicing concerns.
Stories of distrust of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, concerns about the socioeconomic impacts of recovering 450 Gl of ‘up-water’ and a general angst around the basin plan were all shared with Mr Littleproud at a public forum in Shepparton last Wednesday.
Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum said it was a long running issue.
‘‘This is a bit of a trend. David, the message cannot be clearer from this room that your department, the people in your department dealing with water are not friends of this area. We can’t trust them,’’ he said. ‘‘This is a worry for us.’’ The long-running mistrust has only been fuelled by recent consultations with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, according to Katunga dairy farmer Daryl Hoey.
The department has recently been in regional towns, including Shepparton and Deniliquin, to discuss the social and economic impact test which will govern water recovery in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Communities were given just one day’s notice of the consultations, with locals unhappy with the lack of notice, information and detail.
‘‘My question is: when are you going to pull your department into line?’’ Mr Hoey said.
‘‘The department has been going through the regions putting together expressions of interest and trying to justify why these regions should be putting up these programs,’’ he said.
‘‘So why don’t we let MINCO (Ministerial Council) do its job, let the states come to an agreement? The department (has been) trying to run roughshod over this basin plan for way too long.’’
Mr Littleproud had previously slammed his department and told the staff to return to areas where people felt they had not been heard.
He extended the consultation by two weeks saying they had given ‘‘three parts of bugger all’’ notice.
‘‘I told them ‘you’ll do it again until you do it right’,’’ Mr Littleproud said.
‘‘They need to give you the respect you deserve . . . I’m not overly chuffed about (what’s happened).’’
Although expressing some surprise there were not more questions about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, VFF Water Council chair Richard Anderson said he ‘‘didn’t take much new out of (the meeting) at all’’.
‘‘It was a bit of same old same old and really quite subdued on the water front,’’ Mr Anderson said.
Federal Agriculture and Water Minister David Littleproud has moved to calm concerns over the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, calling on all parties to ‘‘take a leap of faith’’.
Hosting a public forum alongside Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum in Shepparton last Wednesday, Mr Littleproud told the 150-strong crowd there was more work to be done on the plan.
The controversial 450 Gl of ‘upwater’ was the ‘‘elephant in the room’’ according to many attendees who voiced concerns about the effect water recovery will have on the region.
‘‘The easiest thing for me is to sit here, look you in the eye and say ‘yeah, I’m going to stick it into them (the other states) as well’ but there’s no point. I can’t change (the plan). I’ve just got to get on and try and limit the impact,’’ Mr Littleproud told the crowd.
All basin states and the Federal Government are currently working on a neutrality test as part of the 450 Gl, to determine how the socio-economic effects of potential projects should be assessed, which will be discussed at a Ministerial Council meeting on December 14.
Victoria and NSW have already outlined their suggestions for the test, including identifying potential impacts on regions and explaining any benefits, ensuring it does not directly increase the price of water, does not impact irrigation jobs, and contributes to the current and future financial viability of irrigation districts.
Mr Littleproud said he intended to respect the requirements of the legislation, including the clause that states the 450 Gl cannot be delivered unless it has neutral or positive socioeconomic effects.
‘‘The neutrality test is important, it has to be respected . . . We intend to respect those guidelines,’’ he said.
‘‘(The plan) is not perfect, there’s no way it’s perfect . . . But I’ve got to make sure I don’t cause any more impact.
‘‘(If we can’t make the plan work) they’ll come back with a five or six thousand (Gl) plan . . . this is the insanity that’s there.’’
Mr Drum said the plan replaced ‘‘absolute chaos’’. He agreed that although ‘‘not perfect’’ the plan must be worked with.
Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Group co-chair and State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said there must be a broad and thorough test applied to any water to be retrieved for the 450 Gl.
‘‘The best thing you could do for us . . . is guarantee that if there is any negative impacts across our towns . . . that no water towards the 450 will be taken from us,’’ Ms Sheed said to applause from the crowd.
Mr Littleproud said there must be faith.
‘‘The problem with the plan is there hasn’t been trust. We have to take a leap of faith,’’ he said.
Tallygaroopna dairy farmer Natalie Akers said although it was good to see Mr Littleproud make the effort to come to the region, there was still a great deal of uncertainty around the basin plan.
‘‘I think the region still has a lot more work to do in convincing the Commonwealth of the actual tipping point the GMID is facing,’’ Ms Akers said.
Water woes . . . More than 150 people attended a public forum to ask questions of Federal Agriculture and Water Minister David Littleproud (inset right). Among them was Katunga dairy farmer Daryl Hoey (inset left).
Keen interest . . . More than 150 people turned up for a public forum in Shepparton to ask questions of Federal Agriculture and Water Minister David Littleproud.