National Irrigators warn collaboration is needed on key reforms

Canberra, ACT, 27 June 2024: On the eve of the National Water Ministers meeting, the
National Irrigators’ Council is calling on state Water Ministers to demand accountability from
the Federal Government for a more inclusive and effective approach to National and Basin
water issues.

The Council’s CEO, Zara Lowien, has expressed concern over the slow progress of
Government processes on new supply measure projects and off-farm efficiency measures.

“Slow and inadequate progress will only lead to further buybacks, negatively impacting
irrigation water dependant Basin communities,” said Mrs Lowien.

“We are urging Basin Ministers to hold the Albanese Government accountable for its
commitment to utilise all available tools in the toolbox and ensure that no community is left
behind in the implementation of the Basin Plan”.

“Despite these promises, more than six months have passed without any significant progress;
we do not have a comprehensive Basin Plan implementation strategy, there are no new
contracts, or new funding exchanges that have been made.”

“Time is running out to fund and build these alternative projects that aim to reduce the
volume of water to be purchased.”

“In light of these concerns and those raised by the Productivity Commission, collaboration by
all Basin Governments will be needed to embrace change to effectively explore alternatives
to direct water purchases and minimise the economic repercussions on Basin Communities”.

“Basin Minister’s must also consider that the $300 million for the Sustaining Basin Communities
program will not be sufficient to offset the economic impacts of lost production.”

“Basin communities deserve better than the sugar hit proposed by the fund” she said.

Friday’s meeting presents the first opportunity for Basin Water Ministers to discuss the changes
to the Murray Darling Basin Plan and the recommendations from the Productivity
Commission’s Final Report on Basin Plan Implementation.

The Council also expressed disappointment with the National Water Initiative renewal
process and has proposed a two-step engagement process to address current engagement
shortcomings before any new agreement is reached between states and territories.

Mrs Lowien said it is imperative that any updated agreement aligns with existing NWI
objectives and considers the final advice of the Productivity Commission’s third review into
the agreement.