Productivity Commission warns the Government, you risk being seen as just chasing a
volumetric target.

The Productivity Commission released its Interim 5-year Review into the Implementation of the
Murray Darling Basin Plan and was scathing of the lack of progress and planning by
Government’s in the lead up to the Plan’s initial deadline of June 2024.

Chair of National Irrigators Council, Jeremy Morton said industry was not surprised by the
assessment of the Federal and some of the basin jurisdictions effort towards the Murray
Darling Basin Plan, we’ve been asking for action and submitting new ideas as solutions for
years with little response.

“The progress towards the targets highlights that farmers and communities have stepped up
and done their share, we have even been working to provide new ideas and solutions and
its governments; state and Federal that now have to act”.

“The “gaps” in water recovery programs and who is responsible for what program, is very
clear. It’s not farmers to blame for lack of progress on the Basin Plan”.

“The solution by the Australian Government is to change the rules to enable unlimited direct
water purchases that are known to have negative impacts of Basin Communities, to fast track their slow progress” he said.

Figure 1: Amended by NIC the Productivity Commissions Figure 2, to highlight the group responsible for each recovery target

However, the Productivity Commission while supporting the concept of more direct water
purchases also sent the Australian Government a clear warning that there isn’t enough
money to achieve all the shortfalls via direct water purchases and that the Government risks
being seen as chasing a volumetric target, not environmental outcomes.

Mr Morton explained “the Commission highlighted on page seventy-eight of the report that
in the absence of a credible pathway or plan, which the Government have failed to
produce so far, the Government risk being seen as just chasing a volumetric target, with no
interest in the consequences or enough focus on the outcomes sought”.

“When you consider the facts:
• The Productivity Commission is concerned there is no Government plan.
• The Government has denied the Australian Senate any such evidence.
• The Government is proposing to de-link the additional 450GL program
implementation from constraints and the specific environmental outcomes they were
to provide.
• The Government continues to exclude options to invest in complementary measures
that provide specific and targeted environmental improvements and value add on
the 2,100 gigaltires of environmental water already recovered by the Basin Plan.

This all suggests the Government’s actual intent is to chase a number regardless of the
outcome,” said Mr Morton.

“Just chasing a target, free from any focus on environmental outcomes is not in anyone’s
interests anywhere in Australia and it wasn’t what was agreed in 2012.” he said.
“We know there are better ways to help the environment, we’ve learnt a lot during
implementation, and we now have the vast majority of water required to meet the
Sustainable Diversion Limits, but the Government continues to apply the same tools and
ignore the opportunity to invest in real improvements like those that complementary
measures will provide.”

“Instead, the Government will again rely on farmers to be willing sellers to solve their political
problems of a volumetric target with no care for basin communities and no plan to achieve
the environmental objectives of the plan,” said Mr Morton.