My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Water.
The action I seek is that the minister attend the second annual Tatura water summit, which is being hosted by the Goulburn-Murray irrigation district (GMID) water leadership forum, on 14 November.
The GMID water leadership forum was formed 12 months ago, and indeed the minister attended our first summit on that occasion. The primary goal that arose out of that first summit was to commission a study into the socio-economic impact of the current Murray-Darling Basin plan.
As well as representatives from a broad range of interests, including industry and water organisations, state and federal politicians from both sides will be invited to attend the summit, which will discuss the GMID socio-economic impact study and also look at it in the context of the recently released northern Murray-Darling Basin socio-economic impact statement commissioned by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority itself. A similar study is being undertaken by the Victorian government and should be released by the date of the summit. The group employed independent consultants RMCG to undertake the study. Our report assesses the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin plan to date and estimates future outcomes for our region if the current plan were to proceed as it is.
The northern Murray-Darling Basin plan has just been released and is being discussed widely. The results of our study show a similar trend. Sadly the findings back up many of the fears expressed by irrigation communities along the Murray during the consultation period for the Murray-Darling Basin plan. An estimated 1000 jobs will be lost by 2020. Already more than $550 million a year has been lost in regional production from the reduced water availability in the plan. It is predicted that the annual production losses, which are linked to the unavailability of water, will cost the GMID $4.4 billion over the basin plan’s implementation to 2020.
We need bipartisan support to lobby the commonwealth for a fair water policy to ensure the security of our region’s food bowl and a balance for the environment and the farming industry — the true triple bottom line which has been spruiked since the draft basin plan was released in 2010. This evidence provides us with the capacity to advocate strongly against the 450 gigalitres of up-water which is envisaged by the plan in addition to the 2750 gigalitres provided for the environment. It has been the intention of all parties to the Murray-Darling Basin agreement that the 650 gigalitres would come from water-saving projects, and this is essential.
The water leadership forum is calling for the abandonment of the commonwealth on-farm further irrigation efficiency program and for that $1.5 billion in funding to instead be redirected into works and measures to achieve similar or even better environmental outcomes and farm upgrade incentives, with water savings to remain on farms. We also firmly believe there should be no further reduction in water for production either through buybacks or on-farm upgrades that require farmers to transfer their entitlements to the commonwealth.