The Murray Darling Basin Plan will cost the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) $4.4bill in annual production losses by 2020, and more than $550m a year on an ongoing basis, according to a study released today.
The RMCG report, commissioned by the GMID Water Leadership Forum, echoes the findings of the Northern Basin study, released last week.
Forum chairperson, and Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed says, it’s devastating for the region.
“The study shows the Basin Plan has already had a significant impact on the area, and without change, it will put industries at risk,” Ms Sheed said.
“It showed reduced water available for productive use under the current plan, has already cost us more than $550mill each year in lost production.
Our irrigators in the GMID are paying $20mill more each year, for temporary water, than they would without the Basin Plan,” Ms Sheed said.
Ms Sheed said the study showed that the impact on the GMID will be effectively doubled if a further 750GL is recovered across the Southern Basin, to deliver 450GL in ‘upwater’, and any failure to make up a shortfall to the 650GL required in environmental offsets.
“It will not be possible to run all GMID channels if water use is consequently only 200GL in a drought season, and an irrigation system that barely runs two or three years in 20, will not attract new investment,” she said.
Forum member, and Committee for Greater Shepparton representative, David McKenzie said significant job losses are being hidden by the short term stimulus of the construction phase of the irrigation upgrades in the GMID.
“The irrigation infrastructure upgrade has invested $3.15bill into the GMID, and has generated 750 jobs, but ultimately, the employment is a short-term benefit. Those jobs will cease to exist once the project is complete, leaving the GMID facing a jobs crisis after 2020,” Mr McKenzie said.
The report predicts a net job loss of up to 2000, after the full implementation of the Plan, as it stands, and the end of the upgrade project.
“The community will be the poorer again if any more water is recovered from irrigators. Future investment should be directed to achieving better environmental outcomes and farm upgrade incentives, with water savings remaining on farm,” he said.
The report also brings into focus for the first time, the future impact on horticulture.
“Negative impacts will extend from the GMID, downriver to Sunraysia and into South Australia, limiting future growth in a high-value industry,” Mr McKenzie said.
The GMID Water Leadership Forum will be using the document to lobby changes in the Basin Plan, to ensure the viability of the region, while still improving environmental outcomes.
It says the following change must be delivered:
- Deliver the full 650 GL in environmental offsets to benefit our waterways and catchments.
- Accept the 450 GL ‘upwater will inevitably cause additional negative socio-economic effects, and abandon the Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) program.
- Instead redirect the $1.5 billion earmarked for COFFIE into works and measures to achieve similar or better environmental outcomes, and farm upgrade incentives with water savings remaining on farm.
- No further reduction in water for production either through buyback or on-farm upgrades that require farmers to transfer entitlements to the Commonwealth.
- Develop a regional economic development plan to attract new agricultural investment to the GMID and retain HRWS in the region.
Comment from Peter Hall, orchardist
"The alarm bell has sounded for horticulture through the clear message of this study.
The GMID farming sector has done the heavy lifting in contributing to the MDB plan, any further removal of water from our system could do irreparable damage to the jobs rich industries of the Goulburn Valley."
Comment from Daryl Hoey, dairy farmer
“Dairy farmers are suffering under the Basin Plan, and their resilience is wearing thin.
“Those with HRWS could sell allocation at high prices to pay for feed, but those at the other end of the scale will find themselves in deeper financial distress.
Further production losses will strain the viability of existing milk factories, and lead to further rationalisation and job losses.”
Sueanne McCumstie 0428 743 880│firstname.lastname@example.org
David McKenzie 0419 887 120
Peter Hall 0409 503 523
Daryl Hoey 0407 582 982