Stake­hold­ers slam ‘re­vised’ basin plan

Southern Riverina news - - News -

A vir­tu­ally un­changed ‘re­vised’ ver­sion of the Mur­rayDar­ling Basin Plan re­leased on Mon­day has been met with anger by lo­cal stake­hold­ers.

Ir­ri­ga­tor and com­mu­nity groups have again called for a more bal­anced basin plan.

Sus­tain­able diver­sion lim­its, which in­di­cate the amount of water di­verted from pro­duc­tive food-pro­duc­ing use to the en­vi­ron­ment, re­main un­changed in the ‘new’ plan.

And of the 2750 gi­gal­itres (GL) to be re­di­verted, 2300GL is from the south­ern con­nected sys­tem - the Mur­ray, Mur­rumbidgee and Goul­burn Val­leys.

South­ern Rive­rina Ir­ri­ga­tor chair Ted Hatty said it showed the com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion by the Mur­ray-dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity (MDBA) was ‘‘noth­ing more than a sham’’.

‘‘De­spite nearly two years of try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate with the Au­thor­ity, de­ci­sions are be­ing made to ap­pease en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists liv­ing in Can­berra, Syd­ney, Ade­laide and Melbourne.

‘‘Claims that the Mur­ray River is dead and dy­ing were false and a whole cam­paign of mis­in­for­ma­tion has been built up dur­ing the drought.

‘‘I am dis­gusted and have com­pletely lost faith in gov­ern­ment pro­cesses.’’

Mr Hatty said the MDBA still could not jus­tify the need for more water and la­belled the basin plan as ‘‘green pol­i­tics at its worst’’.

‘‘The Au­thor­ity’s tar­get of 2750GL of water will mean that ap­prox­i­mately 50 per cent of his­tor­i­cal water use is to be lost in the South­ern Rive­rina Re­gion.

‘‘Imag­ine if 50 per cent of eco­nomic pro­duc­tion is lost in a sub­urb in Melbourne or Syd­ney. What do you think the flow on ef­fect will be to those com­mu­ni­ties?

‘‘Well, this is what the MDBA is propos­ing for our com­mu­ni­ties. This is ab­so­lute mad­ness and can­not be jus­ti­fied.

‘‘Politi­cians of all per­sua­sions should stop and re­ally as­sess what this means to Australia’s na­tional in­ter­ests.’’

Mr Hatty said basin com­mu­ni­ties have al­ready been through sig­nif­i­cant water re­form to im­prove out­comes for the en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing the 2004 shar­ing plans ‘‘which have never been tested due to drought’’.

The flawed basin plan process means all this hard work has now been thrown into the bin, he added.

‘‘When politi­cians re­acted to the drought and passed the Water Act 2007, they got it wrong,’’ Mr Hatty said.

‘‘They should ad­mit their mis­takes and en­sure that the re­sult­ing basin plan will not dev­as­tate ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.’’

Rice­grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Australia pres­i­dent Les Gor­don said the re­vised plan was still a ‘‘very long way from what ir­ri­ga­tors and ir­ri­ga­tion com­mu­ni­ties across the Basin will ac­cept’’.

Mur­ray Group of Con­cerned Com­mu­ni­ties (MGCC) chair Bruce Simp­son said the re­vised edi­tion showed the con­tempt the MDBA has for basin com­mu­ni­ties.

Mr Simp­son said the MDBA had ig­nored the prac­ti­cal ad­vice pro­vided by state gov­ern­ments and com­mu­ni­ties, and con­tinue to fo­cus on re­mov­ing large vol­umes of water from pro­duc­tive use at the ex­pense of ir­ri­ga­tion com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘There is no re­vi­sion in this doc­u­ment,’’ he said.

‘‘They have merely proof-read the draft and tweaked some word­ing here and there.

‘‘They have clearly ig­nored the thou­sands of sub­mis­sions they re­ceived from ir­ri­ga­tion com­mu­ni­ties about the dev­as­tat­ing im­pacts this will have on our towns.’’

Re­fer­ring to MGCC’S own sub­mis­sion on the basin plan, Mr Simp­son said the MDBA con­tin­ues to ig­nore the real is­sues, in­clud­ing con­straints to water de­liv­ery and the so­cial and eco­nomic im­pact on re­gional com­mu­ni­ties.

Also an­gered by the lack of change in the re­vised basin plan draft, Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Limited gen­eral man­ager An­thony Couroupis said com­mu­nity fears the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod was more about tick­ing boxes than com­ing up with so­lu­tions has been re­alised.

‘‘De­spite 20 weeks of con­sul­ta­tion, co­pi­ous meet­ings through­out the basin, as­sur­ances that our con­cerns were be­ing heard, and over 12,000 sub­mis­sions, the MDBA has changed noth­ing of sub­stance in the basin plan,’’ Mr Couroupis said.

‘‘As far as Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion is con­cerned, any changes in this doc­u­ment are su­per­fi­cial.’’

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