The National Irrigators’ Council (NIC) has written to Basin Water Ministers ahead of their meeting on Friday calling for a focus on flexibility for ‘supply’ measures projects and an end to ‘black box’ decision making from Basin Governments.

NIC CEO Steve Whan said “when we wrote to Ministers before their meeting in June we pointed out our now long running concern about missing the Basin Plan deadlines for implementing supply projects. 

“While we have seen some positive announcements by the Federal Government since then, what we have not seen, is a recognition that we need more flexibility on projects – including the capacity to bring substitute new projects.

“There is a way forward. It involves extended timeframes with concrete milestones; much better community engagement; and the flexibility to bring in new or modified projects that meet environmental goals in-line with the adaptive principles of the Basin Plan.

“NIC continues to call for ‘complementary measures’, things like better fish passage, tackling cold water pollution and riparian improvement which are vital to improve the health of rivers.

“If we don’t get supply projects completed by 2024 then there is a real prospect of a future Federal Government buying back up to 605GL from irrigators in the Southern basin. This would have huge negative impacts on communities right along the River Murray

“Constraints are one of those key projects and if they are not dealt with, environmental water will not be able to be delivered to the valuable environmental sites constraints are designed to help. It is in every state’s interest to act. 

“This is now at least the fourth Ministerial meeting where we have made a similar call.  As each year ticks by the timeframes get harder.

“NIC’s letter to Ministers also highlights our disappointment that work on important issues like conveyance loss, deliverability and even allocation, seems to happen between Basin Governments but behind closed doors. We would ask Ministers to reflect on the fact that it is the irrigators and the communities who are the customers and they must be engaged in the spirit of transparency.    

“Finally, we have joined others in expressing concern about the long delay in filling vacant MDBA board positions and this includes the welcome position created by the Federal Government for a First Nations board member. NIC recognises that interstate discussions, interspersed with elections, make these things difficult, but we hope we will see announcements very soon.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883