Plan frus­tra­tion

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Sug­ges­tions that so­cial and eco­nomic fac­tors should not be con­sid­ered in the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan’s im­ple­men­ta­tion have been met with frus­tra­tion by lo­cal cam­paign­ers.

Speak Up Cam­paign chair Shel­ley Scoullar, who has been fight­ing for so­cial and eco­nomic im­pacts to be given equal weight to en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tions for sev­eral years, said it is ‘‘un-Aus­tralian to sac­ri­fice the liveli­hoods of a fel­low group of hard-work­ing Aussies for self­ish gain’’.

The sug­ges­tion to ig­nore so­cial and eco­nomic fac­tors was in­ti­mated in the South Aus­tralian Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Plan Royal Com­mis­sion, handed down on Thurs­day by Com­mis­sioner Bret Walker SC.

The re­port states the com­mis­sioner is ‘‘not con­vinced’’ the ad­di­tional 450 gi­gal­itres wa­ter re­cov­ery agreed to in De­cem­ber 2018 would have a ‘‘neg­a­tive im­pact on so­cio- eco­nomic out­comes for their Basin com­mu­ni­ties’’.

‘‘The com­mis­sioner is un­aware of any con­vinc­ing eco­nomic or other re­search which jus­ti­fies this as­ser­tion,’’ the re­port reads.

‘‘While certain in­ter­est groups have sought to at­tribute neg­a­tive eco­nomic and so­cial im­pacts to buy­backs, they have of­ten failed to ac­knowl­edge (let alone dare com­plain about) what in truth have been some of the real driv­ers of the job con­trac­tion in parts of the Basin where wa­ter has also been re­cov­ered.’’

Mrs Scoullar said it was fool­ish to ig­nore the im­pact of the basin plan on peo­ple and their com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘From the very start ev­ery­one was promised a Basin Plan that de­liv­ered for the en­vi­ron­ment and our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties,’’ she said.

‘‘Surely we have not reached a point where this na­tion is pre­pared to sac­ri­fice farm­ers and the towns that de­pend on them, purely be­cause one state — South Aus­tralia — is not pre­pared to un­der­take what should be seen as es­sen­tial in­fra­struc­ture works.

‘‘If we head down the path that the Royal Com­mis­sion sug­gests, South Aus­tralia and the basin gov­ern­ments will be re­spon­si­ble for not only the de­struc­tion of the na­tion’s food bowl, but also the Mur­ray River and its nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.’’

Mrs Scoullar said South Aus­tralia must be­come a more will­ing par­tic­i­pant in find­ing solutions.

‘‘Com­mis­sioner Walker has rec­om­mended a com­plete over­haul of the plan, but if there is to be an ‘over­haul’ the first place to start is South Aus­tralia.

‘‘The key ac­tion re­quired to fix many of the Basin Plan’s short­com­ings is for the South Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment to come on board so they can be ad­dressed.

‘‘At present we have a plan that is dec­i­mat­ing ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and de­stroy­ing parts of the Mur­ray River en­vi­ron­ment. Yet these could be fixed if South Aus­tralia had a more proac­tive ap­proach to find­ing solutions.

‘‘It seems some peo­ple are selec­tive in our en­vi­ron­men­tal ob­jec­tives. Why is it okay to wreck up­stream sec­tions of the Mur­ray River, so the South Aus­tralian Lower Lakes are kept at a suit­able level for boat­ing and other recre­ation?

‘‘Why isn’t the South Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment held to ac­count when it holds wa­ter in the Lower Lakes for boat­ing, in­stead of de­liv­er­ing that wa­ter into the Coorong, which it says needs pro­tect­ing?’’

South­ern Rive­rina Ir­ri­ga­tors chair Chris Brooks said the re­port’s find­ings come as no sur­prise, say­ing it ‘‘says what the South Aus­tralians wanted it to say, be­cause they called for the com­mis­sion’’.

‘‘I agree with al­most every­thing in it be­cause it says the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan has been ter­ri­bly man­aged; we know that al­ready,’’ Mr Brooks said.

‘‘South­ern Rive­rina Ir­ri­ga­tors is sup­port­ive of the en­vi­ron­ment and the indige­nous peo­ple, but do not ask us to be sup­port­ive of the Lower Lakes be­cause they are nei­ther indige­nous or en­vi­ron­men­tal.

‘‘If they need more to fix the Dar­ling — which I don’t dis­pute — then go up north and get it.

‘‘All peo­ple in SRI on both sides of the river, es­pe­cially the Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Limited side, are not to blame or any of the is­sues in South Aus­tralia. We have not over ex­tracted, be­cause we’ve had zero al­lo­ca­tions.

‘‘If there’s a short­age of wa­ter go and see your cot­ton grow­ing Na­tional Party vot­ing mates in the north be­cause they’re the ones killing the Dar­ling.

‘‘They’re mak­ing a zero con­tri­bu­tion to South Aus­tralia’s re­quire­ment and then there’s an ex­or­bi­tant de­mand from the Mur­ray. It is why we have zero al­lo­ca­tion, it’s flood­ing our river and we’re get­ting en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age down here.’’

Mr Brooks said Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity chief ex­ec­u­tive Phillip Glyde and chair Neil An­drew should be ‘‘sacked, as they’re in charge of the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan’’.

‘‘The plan has al­lowed the north­ern guys to keep their wa­ter, it’s al­lowed South Aus­tralia to de­mand the vol­ume of wa­ter and ru­ined the Dar­ling with lack of flow and Mur­ray from ex­ces­sive flow,’’ he said.

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