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NSW signs historic Murray-Darling agreement

Most Deniliquin community members have welcomed the signing of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan agreement.

TYLA HARRINGTON February 28, 2014 4:45am

The NSW Government has finally signed the Murray-Darling Basin Plan agreement.

NSW and Queensland were the last states to hold off on signing the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), 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.

The historic plan was signed into law by the former Water Minister Tony Burke more than a year ago, with NSW only announcing its backing of the controversial plan yesterday morning.

Murray Valley Community Action Group chair Lester Wheatley welcomed the plan, and in particular the ‘‘capped water buybacks’’.

‘‘It’s good to see the (commonwealth water) buybacks are capped even though it is still a significant amount of water being removed from productive use,’’ he said.

‘‘The government has also emphasised that supporting infrastructure will be paramount to their endeavours.

‘‘It’s good they’ve adopted the plan and good they’ve signed it.

‘‘There’s still issues to be resolved but there’s now some certainty.’’

Deniliquin Mayor Lindsay Renwick (pictured) also welcomed the signing of the plan.

‘‘I’m pleased the signing of the plan has come to fruition,’’ Cr Renwick said.

‘‘Hopefully we will receive some of the funding that is expected to be made available for a natural gas connection to the region and get that project on the drawing board.’’

Deniliquin farmer Louise Burge, a vocal opponent of the plan, said the plan was still ‘‘based on misinformation and a political response to the drought’’.

She also said there were too many unresolved issues.

Member for Farrer Sussan Ley said there were two elements to the agreement that were crucial.

‘‘One is the commitment to cap water buybacks at 1500 gigalitres, which sets a definite marker for our irrigation sector — one they can actually work with,’’ she said.

‘‘Secondly, the potential boost to NSW river communities from the Economic Diversification Fund is enormous.

‘‘Locally, we already have some great ideas for the $32m that this deal will unlock and I look forward to working with both state and federal ministers to make them happen.

‘‘This is a really important day for the future of my electorate. As with the drought package announced earlier in the week, it clearly demonstrates this is a federal government which believes in agriculture and supporting growth in regional Australia.’’

Ms Ley hoped Deniliquin would have access to the funding which will now be available and that it may possibly lead to a natural gas connection to the area.

She says a feasibility study is still the first step to getting the connection.

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

‘‘It’s no secret I’m a supporter of the possibility of bringing natural gas to the region,’’ she said.

‘‘If we can deliver that to the Central Murray it will make a huge difference in terms of job creation and value adding to local agriculture, both present and in the future.’’

~ more stories in Tuesday’s Pastoral Times.

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