The National Irrigators Council has welcomed the release of the final Productivity Commission Report into the first five years of implementation of the Basin Plan, saying it should be the basis for action.

NIC CEO Steve Whan said “this is a tough and comprehensive review and it starkly highlights some of the very difficult challenges we face, just over half way through the Basin Plan’s implementation.

“But it should also be very clearly noted that this report confirms that very good progress has been made so far.  Saying “significant progress has been made.

  • About 20 per cent of the water that was available for consumptive users a decade ago is now dedicated to the environment. About $6.7 billion has been spent to recover about 2000 gigalitres (GL). Water recovery is within five per cent of the July 2019 target.
  • The arrangements for managing environmental water are working well, with evidence of improved ecological outcomes at the local and system scale.”

Steve Whan said “despite the positive progress there are huge challenges and NIC would agree with most of the issues the Commission has flagged as needing attention.

“We have frequently expressed concern on the ability to meet certain tasks within the time frames remaining.  The report reflects the same concern in its recommendations on the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Measures projects, the Water Resources plans and efficiency projects. 

“We welcomerecommendations on the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Measures projects.  These projects must achieve the environmental benefits intended, if not we risk more water being taken out of productive use.  We need to see greater community consultation and transparency along with maximum flexibility to achieve the projected environmental outcomes.

“NIC highlights the comment in recommendation 4.1 about the need to clarify risk sharing.  At this stage risk and responsibility are dangerously separated leaving irrigation communities vulnerable. 

“We also support recommendations relating to the 450GL of so called ‘up-water’ which is to be obtained via efficiency projects that come with either positive or at least no negative socio economic impacts.

“We note and welcome the Commission’s strong conclusion that negative impacts on communities of water recovery are proven.

“The report has proposed major changes to the governance of the MDBA. This is not suggesting the MDBA has failed, but rather it raises a relevant issue about whether regulation and reporting should be separated from policy and implementation in the longer term.

“NIC supports recommendations relating to the salt export targets and metering standards. 

“NIC will provide a more detailed response to Government on the recommendations but broadly supports the report and its implementation. We look forward to working constructively with Government and any other bodies that are interested in using this report as a basis for successfully implementing the Basin Plan.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883

29 January 2019