Drastic new limits on the amount of water that can be used for food and fibre production in the Murray Darling Basin will be an unmitigated disaster for all Australians and must be rejected by the Federal Government and Water Minister Tony Burke.

The National Irrigators’ Council said the proposed new sustainable diversion limits (SDLs) released today were a dagger to the heart of regional Australia.

“Cuts to food and fibre production of this magnitude will hurt all Australians. It will cost thousands of jobs, put upward pressure on food prices and force the closure of farms that have been in families for generations,”said NIC CEO Danny O’Brien.

“Water is wealth for the communities of the Murray Darling Basin and taking away this much water would destroy dozens of communities and industries.

“If accepted, this Plan would be a deliberate government policy to depopulate the inland of Australia. As if our cities are not under enough population stress already?”

Mr O’Brien said irrigators support a sustainable environment -after all, we rely on the river system more than most. But communities and food production must be sustained as well, and this plan doesn’t strike that balance.

The Murray Darling Basin Authority proposal is to remove between 3000 and 4000 gigalitres of water from productive use, or a cut of 27 to 37 per cent.

“The Authority’s social and economic impact modelling does not pass the laugh test.

“To suggest that you can take out a third of the productive base of irrigation in the Basin and only cost 800 jobs is a joke. Therewill be more farmers forced out by these cuts alone than this number.”

Mr O’ Brien said the Federal Government must now realise that this is not a balanced Basin Plan and step in to make changes.

“Ultimately this Plan is a product of the politiciansin Canberra because they passed a Water Act that favours the environment to the exclusion of people and food production. That problem needs to be fixed or at the very least, Minister Burke must use his powers under the Act and step in and direct changes to be made.”

Mr O’Brien was critical of the lack of detail provided by the MDBA today –just one of the 21 volumes promised and incomplete social and economic modelling.

He urged all communities to have theirsay on this draft and attend the public information sessions that will be held throughout the basin in the next month.

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