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Irrigators condemn new basin plan

Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Ted Hatty says the new basin plan is worse than before.

August 13, 2012 4:21am

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Altered Proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan creates more questions and increased uncertainty for irrigation communities, according to the Murray Group of Concerned Communities (MGCC).

After the plan was released on Monday, MGCC chair Bruce Simpson said the MDBA had again ‘‘failed to produce a balanced basin plan’’.

‘‘It means our only hope is that Federal [Water] Minister Tony Burke directs them to make appropriate changes to give communities some certainty for the future,’’ he said.

Mr Simpson says the altered plan fails to address the biggest issue creating uncertainty — the shared recovery target — by ignoring the advice of the Ministerial Council to apportion it between the states.

‘‘The MDBA say they cannot apportion the target until the states agree on a method, but fail to mention that both NSW and Victoria agree on one method for apportionment, while South Australia has another idea.

‘‘Instead of trying to work out a middle ground arrangement, the MDBA have chosen to do nothing.’’

Mr Simpson said the MGCC was disappointed with the MDBA’s overall response to the Ministerial Council’s comments on the revised basin plan.

‘‘The MDBA seem to have comprehensively ignored anything sensible put forward by the Ministerial Council or have implemented recommendations in a way that is far removed from what we understood was of the intent of the council,’’ he said.

‘‘That includes the section on an adjustment mechanism for sustainable diversion limits which, in the new legislative document, contains a paragraph that says water savings achieved through increased irrigation efficiency should lead to increased reductions.

‘‘We will be seeking further advice on this section. It may be that we are misinterpreting how it is written but it is a matter that requires clarification urgently.

‘‘The way it is currently presented raises many questions, including how recoveries achieved through on-farm irrigation efficiency programs or the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program will be treated?’’

Southern Riverina Irrigators chair and MGCC member Ted Hatty said the revised plan had done little to instill confidence that basin plan stakeholders were having a meaningful contribution to the plan.

‘‘I am concerned all these negotiations are continually pointing to the creation of a beast we don’t want to be able to see the light of day,’’ he said.

 

‘‘The fact the MDBA is not listening to the key states — NSW and Victoria — who will be copping this thing makes us question if we can trust them to listen to anything.

 

‘‘It renews our lack of confidence in the basin plan process.’’

 

Mr Hatty said it appears components of the basin plan which could not be agreed on unanimously at the Ministerial Council have effectively been left out.

 

‘‘The general concensus is that it is largely worse than it was before.

 

‘‘During the Ministerial Council discussions there were a number of points agreed on and others where the MDBA was asked to come back with more information.

 

‘‘It seems all that has happened is they (the MDBA) endorsed the points on which the states were in agreeance and ignored all the points which needed clarification.

 

‘‘No one is actually sorting it out and it is effectively allowing South Australia to have veto control.’’

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