The Minister for Agriculture has responded to the call by the Independent Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed to conduct a socio-economic impact statement on the effects of the Murray Darling Basin plan on northern Victorian irrigation communities.
The Minister says that “monitoring the socio-economic impacts associated with the MDBP is a Commonwealth responsibility, and is being addressed through the Murray Darling Basin Futures Collaborative Research Network (“MDBfutures”). The Minister said this program includes modelling and surveying of regional economies and communities.
In calling on the Minister to conduct this study Ms Sheed said “The Goulburn‑Murray Irrigation District is regarded as the food bowl of Victoria. It has a $1.8 billion irrigation modernisation project underway to strengthen agricultural productivity in the region, but the region has lost over one‑third of its water from productive use because of the basin plan.”
“At a time when we are being told that there are great opportunities for growing our food exports, this is being put at risk because further water could be taken from productive use”, Ms Sheed said.
In her response the Minister stated that the Victorian Government supports the aim of the Murray Darling Basin Plan to deliver strong regional communities as well as healthy River systems. She said “this must include securing sufficient water for agriculture to meet the significant opportunities and challenges which it faces”.
Ms Sheed said that she had viewed the MDfutures work and was not satisfied that it provided the in-depth information about the socio-economic impacts of the plan in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.
She said that while she welcomed the release of the independent study Sustainable Diversion Limits Adjustment Stocktake Report she believed that the Victorian Government needed to be well armed with credible information about the adverse effects of more water being removed from the GMID.
“I continue to call on the Victorian Government to immediately commence preparation of a socio-economic impact statement on the effects of the Murray Darling Basin Plan on northern Victorian irrigation communities and in doing so to engage with the local community to hear and understand their stories. It is important that a local consultancy well-versed in our regions issues be engaged to undertake this work” Ms Sheed said.
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