Water ministers ‘momentous’ Murray-Darling Basin Plan decision

Water ministers have agreed a “momentous” decision on the Murray Darling Basin Plan that will see the rescue plan delivered in full.

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Today’s agreement on a neutrality test guarantees all water recovered towards the 450GL will create positive or neutral socio-economic outcomes.

This is the last major piece in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan puzzle. This will protect both jobs and production and will be applied at a local, regional and state level.

It’s a historic agreement and means the Murray-Darling Basin Plan will be delivered.

The two million people who live up and down the Basin now have certainty.

Ministers gathered amid a significant de-escalation in tensions that often railroaded previous ministerial council meetings.

SA Water Minister David Speirs said a fresh brace of water ministers — himself included — had helped.

“I think we have seen a change of personnel at the table — Barnaby Joyce is no longer there and Ian Hunter is no longer there representing South Australia,” Mr Speirs said.

“We know that former SA water minister Ian Hunter had very significant disagreements with Minister Joyce and Victoria’s Water Minister Lisa Neville which were publicly documented, which didn’t help SA or the national situation,” he said.

New South Wales Water Minister Niall Blair agreed.

“We’re finally seeing politics left at the door, and it was a shame we saw that introduced in the past, centred around the South Australia election, but we are past that now.

Hope for shift towards ‘policies, not politics’

The plan will save an extra 450GL by buying water from farmers and setting it aside for the environment, or new infrastructure projects that save water, provided these measures do not have negative impact communities in the basin.

Mr Blair said the states and Commonwealth are close to agreeing on a set of measures to assess the economic impact of those projects, to determine if they can go ahead.

“It needs to have water saving, but also provide a socioeconomic benefit or at least neutrality, then we are happy to sign up for it.”

Mr Speirs said he still has some concerns about the test, but is prepared to negotiate with the states and Commonwealth.

“It is critically important we have guidelines developed which gives us an understanding of what positive or neutral projects look like,” he said.

“South Australia supports the participation test and doesn’t want to see other jurisdictions back away from that.”

Riverland grape grower, Jack Papageorgiou, said he is hopeful Friday’s meetings will finally give certainty to basin farmers.

Adelaide’s desalination plant lifeline

Increasing water production from Adelaide’s desalination plant has been touted as one option that could reduce pressure on the River Murray.

Adelaide currently uses around 90GL of water a year, most of which comes from the River Murray, while its desalination plant produces about 8GL, despite having the capacity to produce 100GL.

“Adelaide uses around 90GL of water a year [and] the desalination plant has the capacity to provide the capacity of that water [instead of the river],” Mr Speirs said.

Mr Speirs said if the desalination plant was used, it would mean more water would stay in the River Murray, making the 450GL water savings target more achievable.

However, that would come at a significant cost to Adelaide water users.

Mr Speirs said for the desalination to work as a water saving measure, the cost of running it would need to be covered by someone else.

“Federal Water Minister David Littleproud has suggested they are open to having the conversation [about the desalination plant], but we haven’t talked money,” Mr Speirs said.

Mr Littleproud, who toured the facility during a trip to Adelaide earlier this month, did not reply to the ABC’s request for comment.

“He seems very positive about that piece of infrastructure and how it fits within the Murray Darling Basin Plan, but we need to study that impact and cost first,” Mr Speirs said.

Mr Papageorgiou said he would welcome the desalination plant being turned on if meant more water in the river for farmers and the environment.

“They can’t keep telling us as irrigators that we are going to face cutbacks,” he said. “We want to make sure our State Government plays its role and turns the desal plant on, because it was built for a purpose.”

Environmentalists want a win

Environmental groups are hoping the Commonwealth and states governments can reach an agreement on how to secure the extra 450GL during the talks.

“Ministers must get on with the job of returning water to rivers, our rivers and their wildlife are still struggling through lack of water and are unable to cope with the impacts of drought and climate change,” Environment Victoria spokesman Juliet Le Feuvre said.

“A fully implemented Basin Plan is our best chance of both protecting rivers and giving irrigation a sustainable future.”

Megan Williams, River Country Coordinator for Friends of the Earth agreed.

“Water for the environment plays an integral role in maintaining ecosystems, communities and culture,” she said.

However, Speak Up, a group which claims to represent the interests of Basin communities, said taking another 450GL out from farming would devastate those who rely on it.

“These communities are at breaking point from the social and economic impacts and lost production,” Speak Up spokesman Tom Chesson said.

Victorian water minister Lisa Neville said the test that her state had developed with New South Wales would ensure basin communities were taken care of.

“We know that the water that has come out [so far] has a had an impact, we absolutely know that from the work we’ve had done,” she said.

“This criteria that we are hoping to get support for at the meeting on Friday really sets a robust measure to ensure there is no further water recovery that makes the situation worse in those communities.”

Source: ABC Rural 2018-12

Bores dry up at Maules Creek as farmers and mine dispute cause

The Bradshaws have been farming at Maules Creek for over 100 years but they’ve never seen a bore run dry before, even in the worst drought of ‘65.

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The Bradshaws have been farming at Maules Creek for over 100 years but they’ve never seen a bore run dry before, even in the worst drought of ‘65.

“Something’s happening, but I don’t know what.” says Steve Bradshaw who has seen seven operating bores reduced to four – and one of those is dodgy. He had to cart water for three months to one of the houses on Glenelg – a first. Because of the drought and lack of water he has just seven cows left on his 40 hectare property and survives by off-farm income.

“We always had water though the property, we have three creeks including Maules Creek and that water runs down from Mt Kaputar. We only had floods two years ago. But now several bores and the creeks have run dry and I don’t believe it’s just because of the drought.”

Lock the Gate spokesman Phil Laird says that local farmers have needed to drill, deepen or clean out 29 bores or wells in the last 6 months, far more than during any preceding drought.

Mr Laird in a briefing note says: “The Maules Creek groundwater source is a permanent source of water; the Maules Creek alluvial aquifer has dropped significantly over a short period of time starting in October, 2017.

“Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coal mine is de-watering coal seams with large pumps. Anecdotal evidence from mine workers is that the company was pumping large amounts of water starting in November. We are concerned that the alluvial aquifer drawdown is due to connectivity between the coal seams and the alluvial aquifer.”

But Whitehaven says the Lock the Gate claims are entirely spurious with no data to back it up, although it sympathises with farmers’ plight over water in the drought.

A Department of Planning investigation has already found the drawdown was because of the drought.

Whitehaven says bores haven’t recharged simply because of the drought. It says it uses less than 1 per cent of water licensed in the Upper Namoi, and that its operation are at least two kilometres from the allegedly affected aquifer. The company says every amount of water it uses is done under licence and entirely metered and analysed by the government.

It said the NSW Land and Water Commissioner showed the close correlation between rainfall and seasonal bore drawdown effects related to irrigation activities.

“The correlation is apparent since the commencement of large scale irrigation in the area (note that Maules Creek Mine did not exist until 2014).

“This data is publicly available. Records indicate since mid-2016 there hasn’t been enough rainfall to generate recharge of the alluvial aquifers.”

Mr Laird later disputed this saying that he had an email trail that showed that he tried 4 times to get groundwater pumping data from the Land and Water Commissioner.

“In the end he gave up saying that if I wanted more data there was active investigations by Natural Resource Access Regulator and the Dept of Planning and Environment.

“This is hardly an endorsement by the Land and Water Commissioner of Whitehaven’s “drought” argument.

“We have asked the Dept of Planning for the pumping data and they have not provided it. So in the end the burden of proof for establishing harm lies on the landholder but the coal mine won’t supply the data. The whole mess is a test case for Santos Narrabri Gas Project (NGP) and the chickens could come home to roost as the Land and Water Commissioner is the Chairperson of the NGP Community consultative committee.”

Source: The Land 2018-12

Legendary south-west Queensland stock routes closed due to drought

Ongoing drought conditions have taken a toll on century-old travelling stock routes with vital areas in south-west Queensland closed off to graziers.

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Known as the ‘long paddock’, the stock routes have been a lifeline for graziers who have needed to move their livestock on to the routes when feed on their own properties starts to run low.

The Murweh Shire, which spans an area twice the size of Wales, has had to stop issuing travelling permits and will only allow grazing permits on a case-by-case basis.

Drovers say consultation needed on closure

Bill Prow has been a drover for more than 20 years and lives at Monamby Station, 90 kilometres west of Charleville, with his partner Amanda Howard and sons Mason, three, and Cody, six.

Mr Prow said the council should have consulted him and other people within the industry before making the decision.

“Mate, that’s how Australia got settled,” Mr Prow said.

“It’s really up to the drover whether we think we can get through, that’s just common sense. If we can’t get through we’ll try another route.”

Ms Howard said she was worried about the future because droving had become a main source of income for the family.

“It makes it a bit hard when you’ve got young kids. It’s really tough, especially because there’s a fair bit of responsibility on the station with the droughty cattle and keeping them alive.”

Some graziers forced to destock

Ms Howard said the drought had already forced her friends and neighbours to destock heavily, but they’d like to stay part of the industry despite difficult times.

“When the rain does come, we’ve got a few breeders to keep us going,” she said.

Mr Prow said it was a tough life, but they love it.

“That’s what we like doing, keeping cattle alive,” he said. “We have about 300 breeders left ourselves. When seasons were good we had about 800-odd cows but we’ve had to destock too.”

“I know as a family we’ve had to put our mob on the routes about three different times over the past 10 years.

“We want to be in it and if we let them all go then we’re not going to be able to afford to get back in it when the rain finally comes.”

150-year-old lifeline

Kevin ‘Blue’ Bredhauer, a grazier who lives 100 kilometres south of Charleville, said it was the first time in living memory he had seen the routes closed.

“In Queensland the routes cover up to 70,000 kilometres and they’ve been around for probably 150 years when land was first taken up out here,” he said.

But Mr Bredhauer said even six inches of rain would help the grass grow back with ease.

“It’ll all come back, no matter how bad it is, it always comes back,” he said. “When the right rain hits it everything will germinate, the soil’s been rested which means when the grass does grow it’ll be good grass.”

Eyes to the skies

But Mr Bredhauer isn’t the only one looking to the skies for relief, the council’s Environmental and Health Services Director Richard Ranson said ‘good rain’ was vital for the longevity of the stock routes.

“There’s basically no feed left to sustain the travelling stock. If we did let stock on there would be very little for them if any,” Mr Ranson said.

“They’re just going to damage the routes even further and it will take even longer to recover when conditions do improve, and we get some rain.”

While there are pockets for stock to graze, Mr Ranson said it was better if the routes were given time to regenerate.

The council said it was unsure when the routes would reopen.

“Even if we do get some decent rain there will be some areas of the stock route that are unusable,” Mr Ranson said.

Source: ABC Rural 2018-12

Sugar industry code of conduct to survive largely intact after review

The Australian sugar industry will retain its code of conduct after the Federal Government agreed to accept a review, that found the code should remain.

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Key points:

  • All but two review recommendations accepted
  • Sugar code extended for four years
  • Australian Sugar Milling Council frustrated at government response

The code, established in 2017 after a dispute over rights to choose a sugar marketer broke out among industry, will be reviewed again in four years.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud made the announcement in Mackay, flanked by representatives from Canegrowers, the peak body for sugarcane farmers.

“The Australian Government has accepted all of the recommendations bar two in that review,” he said.

“Those we don’t accept is that the code should be extended for two years, and the grower marketing mechanism should be removed.

“We will also now extend the sugar code for four years, not two, we believe that we have to give the industry confidence and certainty.”

Millers address concerns

The Australian Sugar Milling Council (ASMC) represents eight separate mill owners, the largest of which are Thai-owned MSF Sugar, Australian-owned Mackay Sugar and Singaporean food conglomerate Wilmar.

It has vigorously opposed the code since it was announced, citing political considerations rather than commercial reasons as the push factor for governments.

CEO David Pietsch said the milling sector was disappointed by the Federal Government’s decision to reject two key recommendations from the review.

“Our members are certainly very frustrated at the Government’s response,” he said. “Our fundamental position remains that there should be a repeal of the code of conduct, but as a next step of moving this industry on to a more commercial footing.”

Mr Pietsch refuted claims the decision would create certainty for industry, saying that low productivity growth and underinvestment was a concern.

“We’re still handcuffed in our ability to respond to those challenges with over-regulation, the industry needs to move into the 21st century,” he said.

With choice in marketing also guaranteed by the Federal Government, Mr Pietsch said the decision was short-sighted and lacked whole-of-industry understanding.

“We believe the Minister should adopt all the recommendations, and that includes the removal of the marketing provisions,” he said.

Farmers happy

Peak body for Queensland’s sugarcane farmers, Canegrowers, has welcomed the decision, with chair Paul Schembri saying the code prevented an ‘imbalance of power.’

“The distance between mills and the perishable nature of sugarcane once it is cut means growers cannot choose which milling company they supply with their crop and this puts mills in a powerful position,” he said.

“The code sits as a safety net in the background of our industry, preventing mills from abusing their monopoly in any district.”

Canegrowers thanked the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) for its support of the code, as well as the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee which also backed the code.

Farmer Owen Menkens from Home Hill, 100 kilometres south east of Townsville, said the code gives certainty to the growing sector into the future.

Three-year rolling on-supply agreements are generally made between the farmer and the marketer of choice, which can be Queensland Sugar Limited (QSL) or a mill-owned entity.

“The code gave us some clarity and it allowed us to choose our marketer and stop the blockade that was happening between [miller] Wilmar and Queensland Sugar Limited.”

Mr Menkens said the four-year period of certainty allowed growers to plan the next cycle of cane supply agreements with the local mill.

“It gives us a few years to make sure we can bed down a proper contract. It’d be better if it’s longer, but four year is pretty good,” he said.

Source: ABC Rural 2018-12

Enthusiasm for ‘Dought Prime Minister’ drying up

The Prime Minister’s plans to make drought reform a selling point for his administration are falling flat following COAG meeting

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Scott Morrison’s drought achievements were criticised following the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.

State premiers and the PM formed an agreement on drought. Their joint statement the agreement would improve risk management and preparedness.

The new agreement was largely a reiteration of the intergovernmental agreement developed by the former Labor government, which the state and federal government signed up to in late 2013.

Conspicuously absent was discussion of a national drought policy which is consistent across state and federal governments – a key goal across the rural sector for years.

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said today’s Agreement does not identify benchmarks for measuring progress, or allow for independent input and assessment from outside government.

“The National Drought Agreement sets out important goals and principles but is not a practical or coordinated strategy for building national drought resilience,” Ms Simson said.

“It lacks a coordination mechanism linking governments, industry and community groups and a mechanism to assess the effectiveness of drought preparedness and support programs,” Ms Simson said.

Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the COAG drought policy lacked new initiatives and failed to provide for ongoing reform.

“(The drought agreement) is close to a carbon copy of the agreement the former Labor Government agreed on with the States in 2013.  The biggest change is the title,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“Barnaby Joyce’s first act as the new Agriculture Minister in 2013 was to abolish the COAG committee charged with the responsibility to implement the agreed reform program. That’s when reform stalled. Five years have been lost.”

In August Scott Morrison announced to much fanfare that he would make drought his top priority when he assumed office.

“Drought is our most urgent and pressing need right now,” Mr Morrison said.

By late October Mr Morrison had convened a National Drought Summit.

He invited selected politicians, farmer representatives and charities to discuss reform ideas and announced a Future Fund investment of $5 billion that would pay out $100 million a year toward drought prevention and support from 2020.

Farming stakeholders were invited to attend follow-up meetings after the Summit to develop a long-term national drought strategy.

The talking points for the meetings were criticised for a lack  depth and detail.

Drought policy expert Canberra University Professor Linda Botterill said the drought reform process “didn’t appear to be best way to make good public policy, done in such a hurry with limited consultation”.

“The process seems to be quick and dirty and I’ve got no idea what consideration was given to alternative drought policies that haven’t made the agenda,” Ms Botterill said.

Ms Simson welcomed the PM’s focus on drought and his Future Fund initiative.

Mr Morrison announced several new in-drought support measures at the Drought Summit:

  • $30m for charities to help families pay food and utility bills
  • $50m for water infrastructure,
  • $10m for mental health services
  • Extending the drought communities program from 60 to 80 local councils

Source: Farm Online 2018-12

Farm lobby slams Commonwealth and state governments’ agreement

Farmers have slammed a new national drought agreement as a wasted opportunity after a meeting in Adelaide to sign a new deal.

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Key points:

  • Prime Minister, premiers and chief ministers sign a new agreement on drought
  • The agreement underpins government preparedness and responses to dry periods
  • Farm lobby criticises the agreement for not going far enough to overhaul existing programs

The Prime Minister and his state and territory counterparts used a meeting in Adelaide to sign a new deal that dictates how their governments respond to drought.

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) has long called for a new deal, but when the details emerged president Fiona Simson said the leaders had failed to come up with a new national approach to drought.

“They’ve come into the room and pretty much they’ve left with the same thoughts on things that they came into the room with,” Ms Simson said.

“Whilst the commitment is very good, and the acknowledgement of drought as a national issue is excellent … we have to take that talk to the next level.”

The new intergovernmental agreement recognises the need to support farmers and communities as they “manage and prepare for climate change and variability”.

Speaking at his drought summit in October, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised to deliver a new national approach to drought by the end of the year.

He said it would help remove inconsistencies that mean farmers on different sides of state borders get treated differently when drought strikes.

But Ms Simson said what farmers needed was a policy that would “leave politics at the door”.

“If we don’t have that enshrined in some sort of a commitment at a national and state level, which is where COAG comes into it, then ultimately it develops the way that this drought has developed with a number of political fixes and people feeling very frustrated that that is the way forward,” she said.

Politicians at odds over new drought policy

Mr Morrison, speaking alongside the premiers and chief ministers in Adelaide, said the new agreement was an important step forward.

“It provides for greater accountability and information-sharing about what we are learning about drought so we can better co-ordinate our drought planning,” he said.

Labor’s federal agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon criticised the agreement and said it was little more an a “cut-and-paste job” of a previous agreement, which came into force in 2013.

That agreement expired in the middle of this year as drought set in across swathes of the country.

Mr Fitzgibbon said the new agreement was struck without fanfare because the drought has dropped off the Government’s agenda.

“It’s just a carbon copy pretty much of the agreement struck more than five years ago, and sadly that was an agreement that was not properly progressed,” he said.

Ms Simson said a national drought policy needed to consider how farmers used drought management tools such as the Farm Household Allowance, farm management deposits, fodder storages, water infrastructure and tax incentives.

“Those detailed polices are not in here, and nor is there a commitment in here for the states and federal government, to work together on finalising those polices and actually enshrining them in a comprehensive drought policy and I think that is why we’re so disappointed,” she said.

“We have a future fund on the table, which is great, and we welcome that, but where is the process to put the detail into what that money is going to be spent on … this was the place today to come to that agreement and develop a strategic drought policy and it’s just missed.”

Source: ABC News 2018-12

Irrigators have concerns about their views being addressed

Victorian irrigators have expressed concern their views will be accurately reflected in a consultant’s report on taking water for the environment.

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Victorian irrigators have expressed concern their views will be accurately reflected in a consultant’s report on the socio-economic impact of taking further water for the environment.

Murray-Darling Basin governments are seeking community and industry views on potential additional assessment criteria for on-farm water efficiency projects, to ensure they produce neutral or positive social and economic outcomes.

The Federal Government appointed Tamworth based consultants, Sefton & Associates to carry out community consultations on the projects, which are the basis for the recovery of another 450GL of water under the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Tallygaroopna irrigator Natalie Akers said she was concerned that final report accurately reflected irrigator’s views.

“I don’t want any sugar coating, going into MinCo,” she said.

“It’s important this report be released before the Ministerial Council, on December 14, so the community has confidence its concerns have been heard, and an accurate description of what’s been said is actually prepared.”

She said a key concern was the wording of the communique, issued after the first round of consultations, in Victoria.

Consultation communique

The communique read, in part, ‘participants voiced some concerns with the implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, including about the historical impacts of water recovery, constraints on the delivery of environmental water, as well as making suggestions on additional criteria for on-farm projects.”

It also noted there were “a few” farmers who wanted to participate in the new water infrastructure program.

Ms Akers said she was worried the level of concern, about further on-farm projects, was being downplayed.

“Nothing but community concern would be a far more accurate picture,” Ms Akers said.

She said during the Victorian consultations, one attendee went to every meeting to support on-farm projects.

“(Seftons) needs to be honest and quantify this. Many irrigators could be a figure of 55 per cent.

“I have attended three of the five Victorian meetings, and overwhelmingly the vast majority, 95pc, do not support on-farm projects.

“We are expecting to see a report, that reflects that.”

Ms Akers said irrigators could not afford to lose any more water, from the consumptive pool.

“There is a view the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District is now at a tipping point,” Ms Akers said.

Report release

And Victorian Farmers Federation Water Council chairman Richard Anderson said his primary concern was when the report would be delivered to State ministers.

“My concern is that it won’t get passed on.  Mr Littleproud should make it available, as soon as possible,” Mr Anderson said.

He said he was also worried the report would have a narrow focus.

‘It’s not just about on-farm projects, it was about the socio-economic criteria, across all projects,” Mr Anderson said.

Sefton’s managing director Robbie Sefton said the work was independent of the government.

“We take the preparation of the report and our independence very seriously,” Ms Sefton said.

“We have reported on every topic that has come up.”

She said nearly 250 people attended the consultation sessions in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and South Australia.

An additional 51 took part in stakeholder meetings.

“We were not there to represent the government; we were there to write about what the people in those meetings said.

“We have done our very best to capture comments from as many participants, as possible, who attended our meetings, plus those from submissions and the online survey.”

The initial communique also said socio-economic risks identified in the meetings included potential impacts on the price of water, impacts on the cost of running irrigation networks and the rapid growth in horticulture putting more pressure on available water.

“There was discussion about whether the project criteria can adequately address these risks and the importance of considering impacts across regions and not just local impacts,” Ms Sefton said.

The communique also stated participants were generally receptive to the idea of water efficiencies focussed on urban, industrial, off-farm and metering, but were concerned whether there would be sufficient proposals to meet the 450 GL target.

“It was also suggested that additional criteria could be applied to these projects.”

Federal Water Minister David Littleproud said the government expected to receive the independent consultant’s report soon and would pass it on to Basin states, shortly afterwards. Its release was a matter for MinCo.

“I expect the consultation report will provide a comprehensive and thorough review of all the views expressed,” Mr Littleproud said. “The decision on how a socio-economic test would be applied is a matter for MinCo.”

Pause plan

Bailey confirmed irrigators fears.

Meanwhile, a prominent Upper Goulburn beef producer has called for the Murray Basin Plan to be paused and reviewed, before the planned recovery of the environmental upwater.

Jan Beer said concerns about horticultural growth in the Sunraysia district, raised by Northern Victorian Resource manager Dr Mark Bailey, echoed the fears of many farmers and communities.

“The viability of entire irrigation districts and their communities, the ecological health of our rivers and the waste of $3.3 billion spent on irrigation modernisation are in jeopardy,” Ms Beer said.

Concerns about sufficient water supply for the Sunraysia region highlighted the reasons why the Plan should be paused to review and revise its direction and policies.

“Dr Bailey has confirmed what landowners have long known – that Catchment Management Authorities and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder have grave concerns for the ecological health of the Goulburn River because too much water is being forced down the river, causing banks to collapse and reducing the channel capacity,” Ms Beer said.

“Due to government policies and the opening up of the water trade market, we now have a situation where downstream corporate Murray horticultural plantations own, and are continually buying, much larger volumes of water, which must be delivered further downstream to hotter, arid areas causing greater conveyance losses.”

With the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder calling for priority of its water rights, irrigators in the Southern connected system were left in a dire situation. They not only had a rapidly shrinking consumptive irrigation pool but also would not have the ability to access their water right allocation.

Ms Beer said the Basin Plan Regulation Impact Study provided a framework for consistent and comprehensive water trading rules, to ensure all market participants had the same rights and could be confident of them.

“Include the fact that the Federal Government is currently actively attempting to recover a further 450GL  to deliver downstream to South Australia clearly shows the looming disaster for irrigators and communities in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District and southern Murray irrigation districts,” she said.

“Nor has the MDBA or Federal Government factored in the very significant step climate change that has occurred since the start of the Millenium drought where, according to the Climate Council, we now have a 41per cent reduction in stream inflows and 25 per cent less rainfall in  the April-May period in south-east Australia.”

Mr Littleproud said he had consistently maintained the 450GL upwater could only be delivered through projects with positive, or neutral, socio-economic benefits.

“The criteria for a socio-economic test is currently out for consultation and Ministers will be considering it in the coming few weeks,” Mr Littleproud said. “I recognise irrigators in the southern Basin are facing rising prices and in NSW, low to zero allocations. There is still water available on the market for irrigators, and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder holds only a very small fraction in storage.”

He said the CEWH recently sold more than 20GL into the Goulburn system.

Source: Stock & Land 2018-12

2019 critical year for Basin Plan implementation

The MDBA has today released a report card highlighting six areas of high importance for successful implementation of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

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MDBA Chief Executive, Phillip Glyde, said 2019 would be a critical year for the Basin Plan, and a number of key milestones would need ongoing commitment from partner governments to ensure successful implementation.

“2018 has seen a number of significant achievements—from major improvements in compliance, to the passing of important amendments to the Plan which will improve outcomes for the environment, and for Basin communities and industries,” Mr Glyde said.

“Looking ahead to 2019, it will be essential for us all to maintain focus and momentum as we approach some of the most crucial milestones for Basin Plan implementation.

“The MDBA has looked at progress against six key elements of the Basin Plan, and found that while some are on track, others involve significant challenges.

“In particular, while there have been significant recent efforts from state governments and additional resourcing by the MDBA, many Water Resource Plans are at risk of delay.

The majority of gap-bridging water recovery required under the Plan has been achieved, but the MDBA also considers there is a high risk that the initial June 2019 efficiency measures water recovery target will not be met.

“However, it is positive to see that gap-bridging water recovery is firmly on track, and there has been significant progress on work to strengthen compliance, and in the effective planning and delivery of water for the environment.

“The Basin Plan is one of the most complex and ambitious water reforms in the world.  It arose from an urgent need to secure the future of our nation’s most important river system, and was forged in the spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship.  It has been tested over the years, but it is a testament to the strength and importance of the Basin Plan that this bipartisanship has endured.

“Much good progress has been made, but the work is not over yet.  We need to keep momentum and deliver the Plan in full, including through the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism and Northern Basin initiatives.

While these measures are in their infancy, progress on some of them has been slower than hoped, and the MDBA will continue to monitor them closely and report regularly.

“The Basin Plan’s success depends on continued dedication and cooperation from all parties to the Plan.

“It is only by working together to implement the Basin Plan as intended that we can realise its full benefits—a healthy, working, sustainable river system now and for future generations.

“The MDBA is confident that Basin governments will continue to work together constructively and transparently, and place a high priority on implementing the Basin Plan in full—particularly those areas of risk highlighted in this report card.”

The MDBA is an independent, expert authority, and will continue to work with Basin state governments to ensure that the Basin Plan is implemented in full, to secure the future health of the Murray–Darling river system and the communities that depend on it.

The Basin Plan 2018 Report Card prepared by the MDBA is available at mdba.gov.au/basin-plan/basin-plan-annual-report-card

Source: MDBA 2018-12

Sources include: ABC Rural, The Land, The Weekly Times, Stock and Land, Stock Journal, Bloomberg, Farm Online, Queensland Country Life

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