The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has this week written to Ministerial Council members and recommends progressing a variety of amendments to the Basin Plan. The MDBA is recommending the water recovery target for the Northern Basin be reduced from 390 gigalitres (GL) to 320GL.
In his capacity as a spokesperson for the #MoreThanFlow campaign, Cotton Australia General Manager Michael says “I am not surprised that the Authority has maintained its recommendation for a 70GL reduction, however we are disappointed it has not gone further.”
#MoreThanFlow members include: AgForce, Barwon-Darling Water, BRFF, GVIA, MRFF, Namoi Water, NFF, NIC, NSW Farmers, NSWIC, QFF, Smartrivers and Cotton Australia.
Mr Murray say that industry and individuals, plus irrigator and community groups, argued long and loud through the #MoreThanFlow campaign that water acquisition should stop at the current level of 278GL.
“All remaining efforts and funding should focus on implementing ‘complementary measures’ that would deliver real environmental improvements,” Mr Murray says.
“As spokesperson for the #MoreThanFlow campaign, I am confident that complementary measures – such as works to mitigate cold water pollution from dams, improving native fish passage, and getting rid of feral carp – would do much more for the environment than simply acquiring more water.”
“I note the Authority’s own economic modelling shows a 390GL plan would cost 205 jobs in the St George and Dirranbandi areas alone, while the 320GL plan costs 132 jobs. These are small communities, and like others in the MDB, they simply can’t afford these jobs losses. Furthermore, this story is repeated in communities such as Collarenebri, Moree, Wee Waa, Warren and many other towns across the Basin. On the Authority’s own numbers, a 320GL plan still takes 530 jobs collectively out of all these communities.”
“The focus should be on maximising environmental outcomes in a way that causes the least social and economic harm. If harm to these communities can’t be avoided, they must be given the opportunity for genuine structural adjustment.”
“Put simply, if more water must be acquired, then it should be acquired in a strategic manner that absolutely minimises social and economic impacts.”
The recommendations are now with the Ministerial Council members for response, and then a final recommendation will be delivered to the Australian Government Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.