Will the Commonwealth finally listen to community concerns?
The Commonwealth is steaming ahead to recover an additional 450 gigalitres of water as part of the Basin Plan despite overwhelming concerns shared at meetings held in Victoria this week.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources held public consultations on additional socioeconomic criteria for on-farm projects across northern Victoria. Farmers and representatives from dairy, horticulture, rice and manufacturing from Victoria and New South Wales all attended to express their concerns.
“The large turnout of farmers from both sides of the Murray River demonstrated the high level of concern about recovering more water through on farm projects,” said Victorian Farmers Federation Water Council Chairman Richard Anderson.
Under the Murray Darling Basin Plan delivering the additional 450 gigalitres is dependent upon the water being recovered with neutral or positive socioeconomic impacts.
Despite the very short notice and many farmers in the middle of hay season, large numbers turned out to voice their concerns about how the socioeconomic test had been developed and applied, as any further water taken out of the consumptive pool would hurt vulnerable industries.
“We have been telling the Commonwealth for many years now that reducing the consumptive pool is damaging our communities. Even data published by the Murray Darling Basin Authority shows over 5000 jobs have been lost in Victoria alone,” said Mr Anderson.
“Our messages are clear; getting the extra 450GL through on-farm efficiency measures will reduce the consumptive pool, drive up the price of water and flood communities when they attempt to deliver it. We believe one gigalitre for on-farm projects anywhere in the southern basin would hurt communities, let alone 400 gigalitres,” said Mr Anderson.
Overwhelmingly, farmers emphasised that participating in previous on-farm projects requiring transfer of water to the Commonwealth, had hurt their business. They indicated they are now more reliant on the temporary water.
“Rather than trying to assess the community and cumulative impact of water recovery project by project, the whole 450 gigalitres needs to be subjected to a test to see if communities can take any further recovery,” said Mr Anderson.
“When asked about the distribution of where the additional 450 gigalitres would come from, the Commonwealth confirmed 400 gigalitres would come from the Southern Basin.
“Our regions are at a tipping point, our industries are most vulnerable due to dry conditions and taking more water from farmers will only hurt communities. Will the Commonwealth listen this time?” said Mr Anderson.
Richard Anderson, VFF Water Council Chair: 0428 832 210
Andrew MacDonald, Stakeholder Media & Communications Advisor, 0418 282 875