As of today 77% of the original water recovery target of the Murray Darling Basin Plan has been recovered.
However, this significant achievement, and many others, lie precariously in the balance ahead of a crucial Senate vote in Federal Parliament today.
Yesterday, Victoria and New South Wales confirmed both states would ‘walk away’ from the historic compromise if Labor today choose to support a Greens disallowance motion to quash amendments proposed by the Northern Basin Review.
NFF President Fiona Simson, said Australians could feel proud of the Murray Darling Basin Plan and its achievements to date, but that both now lay in real and imminent peril.
“It was an historic day in 2012 when the Murray Darling Basin Plan was ratified by the Labor Federal Government and the four Basin States and one Territory,” Ms Simson said.
“It was a truly landmark compromise and a proud chapter in our nation’s history.”
“Farmers and communities did not get all they wanted nor did they lose everything they were protecting.
“Since that day those who live and work in the Basin have been working with the Plan to make it the best it can be and to see it deliver the outcomes it promised.
This delivery is certainly on track.
“The Murray Darling Basin Authority’s 2017 evaluation has shown the recovered water is being put to good use, with over 750 environmental watering events in the past four years,” Ms Simson said.
“There’s no doubt, environmental water holders are working together to coordinate their watering actions to support a range of environmental outcomes.”
Ms Simson said investments in on-farm water savings had been shared between irrigators and the environment.
“This has helped minimise the impact of water recovery on irrigated industries and communities, and modernised irrigation networks.”
“Despite Basin Plan water recovery, irrigated agriculture has remained a significant and growing economic contributor to the Basin, valued at about $7 billion per year.
“Traditional owners are increasingly involved in a range of water planning and management activities to get better social and cultural outcomes from Basin Plan implementation.
“We’ve seen the Basin’s economy has continued to grow in line with expectations. Population growth is occurring in larger regional centres.
“At a community level, the impacts of water recovery have been different – some have had little impact, some have adapted and grown, and some have, no doubt, found the transition difficult.”
Les Gordon, rice grower, wetlands custodian and NFF Water Taskforce Chair said the Plan’s benefits were real in his region.
“On my property, a collaborative project, to nurture and encourage the population of the endangered Southern Bell Frog in a habitat between two large rice crops, has been a success.
“This is but one example of on-the-ground Basin Plan-linked collaborative works which are delivering for the environment, farmers and the community.”
Ms Simson said it was always envisaged that the Plan be a dynamic, evolving document, and that it would be above party politicking.
“Hard decisions, were always going to need to be made in the Plan’s life cycle.
“Those living and doing business in the Basin have a right to believe that such decisions are made with the objectives of the Plan in focus and not political gamesmanship.
“The Plan cannot be viewed as a political ‘play thing’ by those in the halls of power.
“The Plan, and the decisions it requires from our elected officials, are not a game to the three million Australians living in the basin.”
Source: National Farmers’ Federation