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MIL chairman cautiously welcomes basin plan signing

Murray Irrigation chairman Bruce Simpson 'cautiously welcomes’ NSW signing the Murray-Darling Basin Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA).

TYLA HARRINGTON March 4, 2014 4:45am

Murray Irrigation chairman Bruce Simpson says the company ‘‘cautiously welcomes’’ last Thursday’s historic signing of the Murray-Darling Basin Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between NSW and the Commonwealth.

While Mr Simpson congratulated the NSW Government for securing extra funding for regional development in basin communities, he also wanted to point out that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was law and that the water was being recovered ‘‘regardless of whether NSW signed on or not.’’

NSW and Queensland were the last states to hold off on signing the IGA for the controversial basin plan, which involves redirecting 2750 gigalitres of water from primary production for environmental purposes.

A commitment to cap water buybacks at 1500GL and prioritising water infrastructure programs are believed to be the reasons which prompted NSW to sign the agreement.

‘‘What NSW did achieve by holding out was to ensure that the priority for water recovery will be infrastructure, and we do support that and the certainty this now provides,’’ Mr Simpson said.

‘‘But what we want to see is the focus moved away from recovering water from farmers to looking at better ways to manage the water to create offsets without impacting on irrigators’ entitlements and reliability ... and that is what we want to see from the NSW Government now that they have signed up.’’

Mr Simpson congratulated the NSW Government for securing $32.5 million from the Regional Economic Diversification Program and $80 million for developing further water infrastructure projects and to fund activities associated with implementing the basin plan.

‘‘However the Government musn’t just throw money at communities and expect all to be well. We need jobs, business and growth,’’ he said.

‘‘The irrigation industry supports 90 per cent of businesses in this district and that sort of economy is irreplaceable.

‘‘The impact of the basin plan is already being felt with higher temporary water prices.

‘‘It has hit faster than people expected and already the economic modelling used to inform the basin plan is out of date and irrelevant.

‘‘It is imperative now that governments look to innovative ways to offset environmental needs instead of just taking more and more water from productive use.’’

Mr Simpson said Murray Irrigation continues to work with the Federal and State Governments to ensure the region’s concerns are addressed.

The basin plan involves redirecting water from primary production for environmental purposes, and was signed into law by the former Water Minister Tony Burke more than a year ago.

The Murray-Darling Basin Regional Economic Diversification Program funding is expected to be allocated now that NSW has signed on to the IGA.

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