3 December 2019

Our plan to fix the Murray Darling Basin

The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has launched its 10 point plan to help restore the balance between irrigated agriculture and the environment in the Murray Darling Basin.

VFF President David Jochinke said the Murray Darling Basin Plan is hurting farmers across Basin Communities.

“As our farming communities endure another year of drought it is clear the Murray Darling Basin Plan is failing to respond to the needs of irrigated agriculture and the environment.”

“Now is the time for all farmers to work together in fixing the Basin Plan to restore the balance between water for our farms, our communities and our environment.”

VFF Water Council Chair Richard Anderson said the new 10 point plan provided solutions to major problems with the Basin Plan.

“Current laws mean the Basin Plan and government cannot respond to what we have learned since its inception. We have been left with a complex and rigid legal instrument that no politician is game to touch.”

“The focus of fixing the Murray Darling Basin must be simplifying the legislation to give the whole community certainty.”

“Farmers also need certainty over when the Basin Plan will end. Currently the legislation allows for a review in 2024 and more water recovery could start all over again. This simply has to change”.

“We need a plan that will take into account the impact of water recovery on our farming communities as well as taking into account new science - like that of salinity in the Lower Lakes.”

“We need a Basin Plan that promotes innovative projects to help restore the balance. New environmental projects that do not require more water should be implemented, especially if the 605GL in environmental offsets cannot be achieved,” Mr Anderson said.

Mr Jochinke concluded saying the forthcoming Ministerial Council meeting in December presents an opportunity for the Basin States and the Federal Government to show leadership.

“The message to government from the farming community has been made loud and clear. It’s time to show leadership and fix the Basin Plan by making it adaptable to our community’s needs.”

Our 10 point plan to fix the Murray Darling Basin

1. Simplify the laws
By being so prescriptive the Basin Plan is failing to respond to new information. We need a Basin Plan that is easier to understand and takes into account new science around salinity in the Lower Lakes and the impact of water recovery on our farming communities.

2. Stop water recovery in the Southern Basin
No more water recovered from Southern Basin irrigators if water from the environmental offsets do not achieve the full 605GL. New environmental projects that do not require more water should be implemented instead.

3. Stop water buybacks
Water buybacks have a severe impact on our communities. There should be no more buybacks in the Southern Basin.

4. No water recovery after 2024
No more water should be recovered from the consumptive pool following the conclusion of the Basin Plan in 2024. Then Prime Minister John Howard promised our communities this was “once and for all” exercise. This commitment must be honoured by all governments.

5. Build Lock Zero
Governments must commit to exploring the opportunity to build Lock Zero urgently. We can no longer afford letting 800GL of water evaporate in the Lower Lakes every year.

6. Scrap the 450GL Upwater
The proposed additional 450GL of water to be recovered cannot be delivered without causing disastrous economic impacts on our communities and significant damage to our rivers.

7. No flooding of private property
Private property should not be flooded without landowners’ consent. The Commonwealth Government must take full responsibility for any third party impacts caused by environmental flooding.

8. Clean up the Northern Basin
Excessive floodplain harvesting must be brought under control along with improved metering and compliance in the Northern Basin. Southern Basin irrigators and the environment cannot be disadvantaged by declining flows from the Darling to the Murray.

9. A market that works for all irrigators
We need a water market working in the best interest for irrigated agriculture and one that acknowledges the physical constraints of our natural river system. A water market cannot work if you cannot deliver the water.

10. Re-structure the MDBA
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority should be disbanded and re-structured into separate entities looking after river operations and compliance.

The VFF is fighting for a fair Murray Darling Basin Plan that actively responds to the needs of farming communities and our environment.

The Basin Plan is the top priority water issue for the VFF. As our communities endure another drought it is clear the Basin Plan is failing to respond to the needs of irrigated agriculture and the environment.

This is because the Basin Plan is a rigid legal instrument that no politician is game to touch.

Then Prime Minister John Howard launched a National 10 Point Plan in 2007 laying the foundations for the Basin Plan.

Since that time there has been multiple changes of government, but no real changes to the Plan. As a result, we have been left with a Plan that does not provide the “resilience, adaptability and boldness” we were told it would.

These laws mean the Basin Plan and government cannot respond to what we have learned since its inception.

That’s why the VFF has developed a new 10 point plan to take back control of our river system, to protect our communities and our environment.

Media Contacts:
Grady Powell, VFF Stakeholder and Advocacy Manager, 0456 960 243