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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Farmers hope to alter Act

Deniliquin farmers John Bradford and Louise Burge to represent the region in Melbourne on Thursday.

SOPHIE BURGE August 20, 2014 3:30am

Deniliquin farmers John Bradford and Louise Burge will attend a roundtable meeting in Melbourne on Thursday which they hope will lead to alterations of the Water Act 2007.

Both local food producers believe this is an opportunity to rectify some ‘‘mistakes’’ in the Act.

Mr Bradford and Mrs Burge will represent Southern Riverina Irrigators and Murray Valley Private Diverters respectively.

The meeting has been called by the independent Water Act 2007 review panel.

Mrs Burge said because the Water Act directly guides the Murray-Darling Basin Plan process, she believes there is an obligation to ‘‘get it right’’.

‘‘The Water Act 2007 and the resulting Murray-Darling Basin Plan are costly mistakes to the long term economic and social interests of Australia, and the full effects of this are still to be realised.

‘‘Some changes can be made now and it’s vital that irrigation and local business concerns are heard.

‘‘Most legislation has a review period and the timeframe and parameters for a review of the Water Act was established back when the Act was originally drafted in 2007.

‘‘It’s a concern that when the Act was developed the draftspeople also wrote in the parameters for how any future review could occur, so we are confined to those original review terms.

‘‘While the parameters for this review may be limited, politicians need to recognise the concerns of the communities most impacted.

‘‘They do have a chance to rectify serious mistakes in the Water Act 2007, it’s just a question of will.’’

Irrigators have long argued that the Act is too heavily weighted toward the environment, therefore skewing the outcomes of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The plan recommends the removal of up to at least 2750 gigalitres of food-producing irrigation water for environmental outcomes.

Mr Bradford said irrigators were already seeing the effects of the plan, with water prices being pushed up because of its associated uncertainties.

‘‘A review of the Act should be an opportunity to ensure a balance between social, economic and environmental values on water decisions in the Murray-Darling Basin,’’ Mr Bradford said.

‘‘The Water Act and basin plan are affecting the price of water on temporary water markets.

‘‘Too much water is being taken out of the consumptive pool and converted to environmental flows; as water becomes more scarce this is affecting the price.

‘‘Last year, temporary water prices hit $118 in November and this was a year of full allocation.

‘‘What will happen when allocations are at 50 per cent or below and when the full scale of water entitlements still to leave the district comes to fruition?

‘‘Farmers trying to organise summer programs will look at selling water instead of growing crops; what does this say for the future of the Murray-Darling foodbowl?’’

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