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Murray-Darling plan welcome, now get it right

NSW signs historic Murray-Darling Basin Plan agreement.

March 5, 2014 4:50am

Community stakeholders have cautiously welcomed last Thursday’s historic signing of the Murray-Darling Basin Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between NSW and the Commonwealth.

Water4Food chairman Terry Hogan, who is also Jerilderie Shire Mayor, says a Murray-Darling Basin Plan must be implemented which is still capable of producing enough food and fibre to sustain communities.

He says there is still a lot of work to be done to get the controversial basin plan, which will redirect 2750 gigalitres of water from primary production for environmental purposes, right.

NSW and Queensland were the last states to sign the IGA following a Commonwealth commitment to cap water buybacks at 1500GL and prioritise water infrastructure programs as part of the MDBP.

Cr Hogan said the social and financial impacts of the plan have to be addressed and the appropriate measures taken to counteract and sustain communities.

‘‘I certainly welcome and congratulate the (Minister for Primary Industries) Katrina Hodgkinson for getting the basin plan deal that we did,’’ he said.

‘‘Obviously there’s still a lot of work to be done, not only by the Commonwealth but by the state government to cover all the issues.

‘‘The social and financial issues are certainly important with the implementation of the plan.

‘‘We need to have a serious look at the plan ... the planet is not making any more water, we still have the same water as we did when time began.

‘‘We have to put a plan in place to produce food and fibre that will sustain humanity.

‘‘We have to make sure we can run off the back of this plan for 50 years, and we need to make sure we can do that.

‘‘There’s no food that you or I eat or the rest of humanity that doesn’t require water to produce ... and that will always be the case.

‘‘Australia has to play a major part in making sure food is available for future generations. It is our responsibility to produce good, clean food.’’

 

While Murray Irrigation chairman Bruce Simpson congratulated the NSW Government for securing extra funding for regional development in signing the IGA, 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.’’

‘‘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,’’ he 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.’’

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