Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed says a scathing report on the roll out of the Murray Darling Basin Plan has echoed community concerns about the recovery of further water from the region.
The Productivity Commission yesterday handed down its draft five-year review of the Plan, criticising the Federal Government for starting recovery of an extra 450GL in environmental water without an agreed strategy to ensure there were no negative social or economic impacts.
Ms Sheed said the report supported the advocacy of Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) communities who were fearful the loss of more water from productive agriculture could be disastrous for the region’s future.
“Two months ago Basin Governments agreed to develop a socio-economic test by Christmas to ensure communities are not worse off as a result of further water recovery, yet within weeks the Federal Government was inviting tenders for projects without any regard for their potential detrimental community impact,” Ms Sheed said.
“To add insult to injury, the report says these projects aren’t even subject to a standard cost-benefit analysis which means the recovery process could be more expensive than anticipated and may not actually be useful in achieving the environmental goals.
“We in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District have been arguing for some time now for the development of a proper socio-economic test to apply to every drop of the 450GL, and I am pleased to see the Federal Government is being called out on its irresponsible approach.”
Ms Sheed said several other of the report’s 35 recommendations would be well-received by many in the GMID, including extending deadlines for delivering 605GL of environment projects and splitting the Murray Darling Basin Authority into two separate offices to remove conflict between its roles.
“The Murray Darling Basin Plan is a $12 billion project. Yes, it needs to be kept on track in terms of achieving its overall aims, but it also needs to be an adaptable framework that takes into account the changing reality on the ground,” Ms Sheed said.
“It’s clear that there is a lot of work to be done on the 605GL worth of projects to ensure they deliver their important environmental outcomes without taking further water from Victorian farmers and we need to make sure there’s enough time to get it right without the threat of devastating water buybacks hanging over our heads.
“It’s also clear to anyone who has been following the allegations of water theft and corruption in the Northern Basin over the past year that the Murray Darling Basin Authority should not be responsible for assessing the performance and compliance of its own Plan.
“It’s ludicrous that the Federal Government has allowed such a conflict to go unchecked for so long.”
Riahn Smith 0419 138 978│email@example.com