The National Irrigators’ Council (NIC) has written to Murray Darling Basin water Ministers ahead of their meeting this weekend, calling for action on deliverability issues, losses and a focus on implementing the Productivity Commission’s five-year review of the Basin Plan.

CEO Steve Whan said “with the Murray Darling Basin experiencing a severe drought we have seen real pressure on the operation of the rivers and that has led to concerns about the capacity to deliver water, including losses during delivery and damage to the upper parts of the Murray system.

“Running the rivers is a complex business but it is becoming clear that there are circumstances where water that has been allocated to users on the Murray below the Choke may not be able to be delivered. 

“NIC has written to Ministers reinforcing the need to address this issue with a long-term solution, and in the short-term to support a moratorium on new development. 

“We first raised this as a looming problem with the MDBA 18 months ago.  NIC was pleased to see Ministers agreeing to address the issue at their last meeting in December and now we need to see a program for a solution, including for industry consultation. 

“We also remain concerned about the losses caused by running the river at high levels through the Barmah Choke, something we have been raising with the MDBA. 

“The Basin Plan itself also needs strong action from Ministers at this meeting. 

“Irrigators remain concerned about the slow progress on the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Measures.  These ‘supply’ projects are critical for achieving environmental outcomes and critical to ensuring that no more water need be taken from irrigators in the Southern Basin. 

“As we have pointed out before – there is a worrying disjoint between the responsibility for delivery of these projects, which rests with Government, and the people who will pay the price if they fail, that is communities and farmers.

“Like other agricultural peak bodies NIC sees the recent comprehensive five-year review of the Basin Plan by the Productivity Commission as providing a challenging but sensible way forward and we would urge Ministers to use it as the basis for action.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883
Tuesday 30 July 2019