The National Irrigators’ Council has welcomed the final report of the Independent Assessment of fish deaths on the Darling River (the Vertessy Report) and the Government response.

CEO of the National Irrigators’ Council, Steve Whan, says “this is a report that is about acting to fix problems, not just about getting headlines, and that is very welcome. 

“It is particularly pleasing to see the focus on connectivity of the river system. It is Irrigators who, for years, have been saying how important it is to improve river habitat.  That means putting in place complementary measures like fishways, eradicating pests, addressing cold water pollution in addition to adding more flow.

“We welcome the measures announced in response by Minister Littleproud. The Minister deserves great credit for the constructive way he has worked in a difficult portfolio since he took it on more than a year ago.

“Our one caution, however, on those measures is that it is important to work closely with the Bourke community over the impact of buying back class A licences.

“As part of a package to provide more certainty around low flows, we understand the desire to voluntarily buy back class A licences, but it needs to be acknowledged that removing those licences will most directly affect Bourke and there are flow on impacts in that community. 

“The strong message out of this report is that it, like the Productivity Commission five-year review, reiterates that the Basin Plan is the only way to go about achieving a long-term solution. 

“This expert group very firmly rejects the calls for a complete revisiting of Basin Plan water recovery targets.” 

In their cover letter the panel says “We stress that we do not support calls to pause the Basin Plan and re-prosecute the Basin reform process. We support continuation of the Basin Plan, its adaptive management ethos, and the intent to undertake a comprehensive review of it in 2026. But we also believe that the reform effort must be re-energised and accelerated.”

Steve Whan said “the other very welcome aspect of this report is the recognition that so much is already being done – with the active engagement of irrigators – in areas like working to protect low flows, getting the best metering and working to regulate and measure overland flows, among others. 

“Irrigators are part of the solution in achieving healthy rivers, healthy communities and continuing to produce the food and fibre Australians love.  On that basis we welcome constructive, unbiased and independent, scientific analysis.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883
Wednesday 10 April 2019