d Irrigators tell Senate Committee implement existing Basin Plan recommendations rather than adding new ones | National Irrigators Council

The National Irrigators Council (NIC) submission to the Senate Select committee on the ‘Multi-Jurisdictional Management and Execution of the Murray Darling Basin Plan’  says the committee should focus its outcomes on urging full implementation of Productivity Commission recommendations; and should not seek to move boundaries of responsibility on Basin rivers.

NIC CEO, Steve Whan said “the select committee has a long and complicated name as befits a very complicated policy area.  Unfortunately, complication in managing rivers and catchments is inevitable because rivers and catchments all have different characteristics – and because, for better or worse, we have a federated structure of Government.

“While we appreciate committee members’ efforts to help implementation of the Basin Plan, it is important to note that there are already thorough, independent, recent reports with recommendations still to be implemented. 

“There are many issues that need to be fixed with the Basin Plan and we need action, not grandstanding, to do it. 

“On that basis NIC has urged the committee to make its key outcome a strong push for implementation of the Productivity Commission’s five-year review recommendations.

Our submission urges the committee to acknowledge the vital role irrigated agriculture plays in the Murray Darling Basin supplying food and fibre for Australia and in generating jobs and economic activity for Basin communities. In addition, the committee needs to recognise that the Basin Plan promised a triple bottom line outcome: healthy rivers, healthy communities and a continued capacity to produce food and fibre.

NIC has suggested to the committee that:

  • there are sound geographic and resource management reasons for many differences in what might on the surface seem to be similar things – e.g. water entitlement types;
  • the committee acknowledge that Government priority must be on ensuring the commitment to and  flexibility to enable the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) process to deliver equivalent benefit of 605GL, thus ensuring no further water recovery is required; and that the no negative impact on communities guarantee is met;
  • the committee should consider recommendations that facilitate a greater practical focus on delivery on the SDLAM suite of projects and ensure that Government is focused on cooperative and adaptive approaches;
  • the last three years has seen a massive increase in resources for compliance and huge change in requirements and standards; it is critical that these reforms are allowed to be completed and assessed before any further change is considered;
  • the committee should allow the ACCC, with its significant expertise, powers  and resourcing, to consider issues around the operation of water markets; and
  • NIC supports improved monitoring of rivers and more research leading to better and more comprehensive information; NIC would also support a reintroduction of a sustainable rivers audit type approach.
  • the committee should allow the ACCC, with its significant expertise, powers  and resourcing, to consider issues around the operation of water markets; and
  • NIC supports improved monitoring of rivers and more research leading to better and more comprehensive information; NIC would also support a reintroduction of a sustainable rivers audit type approach.

“NIC was concerned that the committee’s issues paper gave little recognition to the vital contribution irrigated agriculture makes securing food and fibre production in a variable climate, and we were disappointed that the sources quoted did not include irrigators. 

“Nevertheless, we look forward to the committee taking a considered approach which makes a positive contribution to achieving outcomes for the environment, basin communities and our ability to grow the food Australians eat and the fibre we wear.

“Afterall, if it wasn’t for the $8.6 billion worth of crops Basin irrigators grew, as the drought hit in 2017-18, it is quite likely most Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide families might have missed out on fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts and dairy product.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883

Friday 14 February 2020