The report from the Interim Murray Darling Basin Inspector General on state water shares will disappoint some, but reveals hard reality, says Steve Whan, CEO of the National Irrigators Council (NIC).

Steve Whan said “the report tells us there is no new water – no miracle cure for a tortuous, and hard to understand, interstate water sharing process. 

“It makes it clear that misunderstanding, and mistrust, are rife when it comes to Basin water management. We all need to make a much bigger effort to dispel myths and conduct legitimate debate on common facts.

“As a peak national lobby group for irrigators in many different parts of the nation, and the basin, NIC takes the view that it is our job to lobby hard for our sector and our communities – but not to raise unrealistic expectations by promising the impossible.

“That’s why, while we welcomed this process, we did not seek to raise expectation that it could deliver water to farmers, who, we know, desperately need it right now.  Drought has hit so many people hard, and we know from every recent report that the impacts of water reform and markets have been uneven.

“Interstate water sharing arrangements are not set in stone, they have changed, and they should be fair, but change is very difficult and has to be carefully justified.

“This report is the latest to point out the real problems in building shared understanding of the facts around water management and the Basin Plan implementation.  It’s a lack of understanding which hampers good decision making and positive community engagement. 

“It also contributes to the chronic problem Australia shares with many western democracies of lack of trust in Government, agencies and leaders.

“Building a better understanding and shared knowledge will not (and should not) take away difficult debate and different views, but it might help to make those discussions more productive. To that extent, NIC welcomes the commitment Minister Pitt and the Government have made to implementation.

“Water management is always going to be difficult; it is a finite resource and the capacity to pay for water – and then earn an income from it – is dependent on market prices and supply.  The Basin Plan is the world’s most ambitious river recovery plan, this report, combined with the independent social and economic panel, highlights just how hard it is.

“One common theme from all reports, is that, starting again is not an option. We need to fix the problems and do the hard yards toward achieving something that produces healthy rivers, healthy communities and a continuing capacity to produce food and fibre for the nation.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883

Friday 17 April 2020