Murray Darling Basin water ministers meet on Friday, and the National Irrigators Council (NIC) is saying they need to focus on getting critical ‘supply’ projects on track.

NIC CEO Steve Whan said “irrigators have been expressing concern for some years about the possibility of missing the Basin Plan deadlines for implementing supply projects. 

“These are projects that deliver water more effectively to the environment, they enable environmental outcomes to be achieved with less recovery of water from irrigation.

“Some projects have been put in place, but, unfortunately, progress on the most difficult has been very slow. 

“Under the Basin Plan, as it stands, if we don’t get supply projects completed by 2024 then the Federal Government is likely to have to buyback up to 605GL from irrigators in the Southern basin.  If that happened, it would have huge negative impacts on communities right along the Murray River.

“I am very concerned that some of these projects are in the ‘too hard’ basket and that tough decisions are being pushed down the track where they will cost our communities even more.

“This problem was highlighted by the Productivity Commission in its five-year review of the Basin Plan.  Importantly the Productivity Commission also gave recommendations about how to fix the problem.

“NIC is calling on Ministers to act decisively to implement those recommendations and act on calls we have made before the last two Ministerial Council meetings.

“There is a way forward on this. It involves extended timeframes with concrete milestones; much better community engagement; and the flexibility to bring in new or modified projects that can help meet environmental goals in-line with the adaptive principles of the Basin Plan.

“Regional communities cannot afford the massive loss of production and jobs that will come if Government has to buyback water.  It is an unfortunate fact, that unless we see real action, buyback is effectively locked into commonwealth legislation.

“Friday’s meeting will have a number of challenging issues; all are important, but getting this process on track is right at the top.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883

Thursday 18 June 2020