The National Irrigators Council (NIC) notes the report of the Senate Select Committee on the MultiJurisdictional Management and Execution of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

NIC CEO, Isaac Jeffrey said: “NIC acknowledges the extensive work of the Committee in completing the inquiry, however we do not need to be distracted by continued inquiries and reviews into the Basin Plan. What is needed is all agencies, including the Basin States, to work together in the spirit of bipartisanship tocomplete the remaining elements of the Plan.

“The Committee report has established that the Basin Plan remains the best framework for improving and protecting the river system, while suggesting that efforts must continue to identify ways in which the multijurisdictional management and implementation of the Basin Plan might be improved.

“We would expect our elected political representatives, whether State or Commonwealth, to find the right conclusions as part of this inquiry and maintain the confidence of those in the irrigated agriculture sector, who signed up in good faith to the Plan and put their trust in political leaders and other decision makers.

“We must not be distracted from the critical elements of the Basin Plan and that is: to ensure that the promised triple bottom line outcomes of economic, social and environmental benefits are delivered; acknowledge and respect water property rights; and recognise that the Basin Plan cannot alone drought-proof the environment.

“The Committee report points to the consequence for Basin States failing to achieve the agreed offset volumes under the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) projects, estimated to be 605 gigalitres, by set deadlines. That is, until late 2020 when the Commonwealth Water Minister announced that the Government would shift its focus onto off-farm projects, and that no more buybacks would be considered. NIC has consistently expressed concern that the risk of failure to achieve the full offset value under the SDLAM projects, would result in further water buybacks by the Commonwealth in 2024 and this would have a devastating impact on regional communities and industry.

“NIC has over a long period pointed to the complex arrangements regarding the administration of the Murray Darling Basin, with different levels of government and different agencies involved. We continue to support efforts to simplify administration and remove duplication and complexity where it can be shown to be practical and justified, and where it would not impose additional regulatory costs on irrigators.

“In a further practical measure, the Committee suggests that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the Office of the Inspector-General for Water Compliance, work with Murray-Darling Basin States to develop best-practice principles to better align, where practical and appropriate, the compliance and enforcement approaches of governments, such as terminology, reporting requirements of regulators,
and penalties.

“NIC supports the Committee recommendation that the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office work with State counterparts to address any duplications or inefficiencies between Commonwealth and State environmental watering plans.

“The irrigated agriculture sector will continue to work with the Commonwealth, State jurisdictions and Basin Plan agencies to ensure the voices of the people and the communities producing irrigated food and fibre are heard and to ensure the social, economic and environmental outcomes in Basin communities are not compromised,” Mr Jeffrey said.

Ends. Media Contact: Isaac Jeffrey 0407 083 890