Farmers, rural communities and the environment all suffer in a drought crisis but none will be helped by knee jerk changes to the Basin Plan, says National Irrigators’ Council CEO, Steve Whan.

“Unfortunately virtually every day this drought continues, we are seeing unwanted records, record low inflows, record lowest ever rainfalls and record high temperature runs.  Unwanted records last year saw Australians shocked by the plight of farmers, and now, by the impact on fish populations, the environment and small towns.

“We need to remember things have become worse, not better, for the farmers we were so concerned about last year.

“Irrigation farmers are also doing it extremely tough. With limited or no water allocations, most in NSW and Southern Queensland will have to survive this year with no income to cover ever mounting costs. These times are incredibly challenging for the farmers and for the many rural communities who rely on irrigated agricultural crops for their livelihoods.

“It is a tragic situation and may well get worse.

“Australia built irrigation infrastructure so that we could provide water for people and have the capacity to grow food and fibre in a variable climate. That infrastructure is now also used for the purpose of ensuring drought resilience in the environment.

“There is no knee jerk response that is going to fix this drought and there is no magic reserve of water that can help.  And it wouldn’t have made one iota of difference what crop was grown with the limited water available over the last few years.

“We are 7 years into the 12 year implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan. The only people that would benefit from scrapping the Plan are those whose political cause is advanced by such disasters.

“We would expect that discussions between Commonwealth and state officials regarding the current fish kill events will focus on all fish kills across all states, and not simply restricted to the Murray Darling Basin. These discussions must be underpinned by genuine scientific evaluation and review to ensure the risk of any future kills is minimised.”

Steve Whan said National Irrigators’ Council had consistently lobbied for action to improve habitat for native fish. Irrigation is part of the solution for improving rivers as well as keeping country towns alive and supporting the capacity of agricultural industries to grow food and fibre.

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883

15 January 2019