Victorian farmers are challenging the need for further water recovery under the Murray Darling Basin Plan after a key government report highlighted that river systems have already benefited from recovery to date.
Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) Water Council Chair Andrew Leahy said positive environmental outcomes were already being achieved without the need for a further 450GL water recovery.
“Over 2,100 gigalitres of water has already been recovered for the environment and has delivered great benefit to our ecosystems. But we must acknowledge the huge toll on rural communities and agricultural jobs as a consequence,” Mr Leahy said.
“Further recovery can’t be achieved, will hurt farming communities and jobs, and won’t provide any real environmental benefit.”
Mr Leahy said the Commonwealth’s State of the Environment Report failed to mention the need for additional water recovery, instead saying the environment had benefited substantially from existing recovery.
The report said:
Progress has been made and measurable outcomes have been observed……Flows are now provided by releasing water for the environment. These are restoring the health of rivers and wetlands and helping to mitigate issues such as fish deaths and algal blooms that occurred during the recent drought (Pg 91)
“Contrary to reporting yesterday, the State of the Environment Report made no mention of the Murray Darling Basin’s Plan’s recovery of the 450GL of up water target.”
“Unfortunately, commentators forgot to focus on what was actually stated in the report and rather emphasised the Federal Government’s election agenda on the 450GL, despite no mention of it in the report,” Mr Leahy said.
Mr Leahy said the VFF had long argued 450GL target was not achievable because it is not guaranteed in legislation and is subject to a test that any recovery of the water must not have no negative socio-economic impacts.
“The Federal Government yesterday wanted to point out that only 2GL of the 450GL has been recovered, yet we must remember there is a good reason why this is so.”
“The 450GL was an add-on to the Basin Plan back in 2012 to secure up South Australia’s support, but it was never guaranteed in legislation and was always subject to no negative socio-economic impacts,” Mr Leahy said.
“State Water Ministers in 2018 agreed to strengthen the socio-economic test to ensure there are no third-party impacts on regional and rural communities when it came to recovering water towards the 450GL. It has been four years since the strengthened test, and we need to ensure it remains in place.”
“The hard truth is that water recovery for the 450GL will devastate rural communities and destroy jobs, and that is why it cannot pass the socio-economic test,” Mr Leahy concluded.