Win for common sense
A decision by state water ministers in Melbourne on Friday on the MurrayDarling Basin Plan has been hailed a commonsense outcome by irrigation communities.
The ministers decided any more water to be transferred out of agriculture to the environment can only happen where there was a neutral or positive impact on communities.
More than 200 people, mostly from northern Victoria and the southern Riverina, marched to the meeting venue in Melbourne to demand better consideration for irrigators.
Peak dairy body Australian Dairy Industry Council described the decision as a coup for struggling agriculture.
‘‘We are relieved and grateful that the ministers agreed to a socio-economic test that is fair for all farmers because, as it stands, local dairydependent communities cannot tolerate more water and job losses,’’ ADIC water taskforce chair Daryl Hoey said.
The Murray-Darling Basin is home to about 1405 dairy farms, representing more than 1.8 billion litres, about 20 per cent of Australia’s total milk pool.
Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said the agreement ensured there was a strong socioeconomic criteria required for the 450 Gl of extra water.
There was also agreement on a Victorian motion the Murray-Darling Basin Authority would do extra work on deliverability, constraints and impacts of higher flows and agreement on funding to allow states to deliver environmental offset projects.
She said the socioeconomic criteria reflected the neutrality test Victoria and NSW agreed on this year and provided the community with confidence that socio-economic impacts would be properly addressed, including the consideration of cumulative, region-wide impacts, water prices and any impact on jobs.
‘‘Victoria has already done much of the heavy lifting on water recovery, and the adoption of these criteria will mean further recovery will need to have
On the road: Irrigators assembled for the rally in Melbourne on Friday.