Reports that the Murray Darling Basin Authority will release only an upper and lower “range” that new Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDLs) may fit into will prolong the uncertainty surrounding the new Basin Plan, according to the National Irrigators’ Council.

The reports, confirmed by sources tonight, add insult to the injury of the likely scale of cuts to irrigation to be announced in the so – called guide to the Plan to be released on Friday.

“The MDBA has had 18 months to prepare this Plan and they have put it off three times now. To now find that we will not get the numbers we have all been waiting for is incredibly frustrating,” said NIC CEO Danny O’Brien.

“We want to know what the Authority thinks is needed for the environment so that we can have a genuine engagement process, not some vague debate about what might be needed. The reality is, many stak eholders in the Basin will assume that the number at the top of the MDBA’s range is what it really wants.

“Reports of the likely scale of the cuts appear to confirm our worst fears. If these reports are accurate, the proposed cuts will devastate communities in parts of the Basin.

“Significant cuts to water availability will cost jobs, place upward pressure on food prices and force families off farms that have been held for generations.”Irrigators want a healthy ecosystem but this must be balanced by the needs of food and fibre production and regional communities.”

Mr O’Brien said the ongoing delays and uncertainty about water availability are already stymieing investment in some communities, from farmers through to food industries and particularly in retail businesses in irrigation dependent towns.

“All these people want to know what is proposed. They can then begin the debate as part of the consultation process in the hope they can maintain a future for their families and communities.

“It’s time the MDBA put the uncertainty to bed.”

Media Contact: Danny O’Brien (02) 6273 3637 or 0438 130 445