Sheed slams news of report

June 06, 2017

Hopeful . . . Wyuna farmer Russell Pell hopes the report into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan will provide certainty.

Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed has slammed the decision to commission a further report into the socio-economic impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and said she’s ‘‘extremely anxious’’ the 450Gl of up-water is even still on the table.

Ms Sheed, who is also the chair of the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Forum, said a number of reports had already been released into the matter, including a GMID report released in October and a recent report commissioned by the Victorian Government.

‘‘Studies already show that a further 450Gl will result in extreme impacts on dairy and horticulture, should there be another drought,’’ she said.

‘‘Why would the (federal) government want to see these important contributors to the Australian economy being put in such a position?

‘‘Unfortunately even efficiency measures have been leading to water going out of the region and impacting productivity, and that in itself is a double-edged sword in that you get the upgrades on our irrigation systems and on our farms, but at the same time water that could have remained in productive pool is leaving our district.’’

Wyuna dairy farmer Russell Pell said the terms of reference announced by Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce on May 26 were ‘‘good news’’.

He expects this report, which has been backed by the basin ministers, to be welcomed by the community following the ‘‘drawn out’’ process of the basin plan and hopes it will bring some certainty to the community.

‘‘What we need here is really good sound economic and social values of what’s going on. The announcement is very timely actually and will be appreciated by most people,’’ he said.

‘‘From what I can gather that’s what people are looking for, an interpretation for what (the 450Gl of up-water) means, that seems to need to be clarified.’’

New basin report

Mixed reviews have greeted the announced scope of an independent report into the socio-economic effects of recovering an additional 450Gl in environmental water from the Murray-Darling Basin, with some questioning whether the report is necessary.

Some farmers fear that taking a further 450Gl could see too much productive irrigation water leave the system.

Federal Agriculture and Water Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the terms of reference for the study on May 26 and said the report would help ensure a ‘‘comprehensive’’ overview of the socio-economic impacts.

‘‘I remain committed to the triple-bottom line outcomes of the basin plan: water recovery must be done in a way that supports strong basin communities and productive industries,’’ Mr Joyce said.

National Irrigators’ Council chief executive officer Steven Whan welcomed the announced scope of the report and said past statements about the 450Gl of up-water were ‘‘very clear’’ that water would only be delivered if it had neutral or positive socio-economic impacts.

‘‘(The) NIC is very pleased to see that basin water ministers have recognised that for the promise to be met, more work needs to be done to ensure that any taxpayers’ money spent securing the 450Gl of up-water produces benefits — or at the least no negative — for the community as well as the environment,’’ he said.

It was a sentiment echoed by acting VFF president Brett Hosking, who said the group would continue working with the Victorian Government to ensure irrigation communities were not affected by the recovery targets.

The report’s terms of reference were agreed to by basin ministers at a Ministerial Council meeting in March, with the report exploring how to design, target and source efficiency measures to recover 450Gl by 2024, the potential risks of adverse socio-economic impacts arising from efficiency measures and the extent to which adverse socio-economic impacts could be mitigated.

Yet State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed questioned why another report was being commissioned following reports from the Victorian Government and the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.

‘‘How many studies do we actually need to convince the Federal Government and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority about the negative socio-economic effects in our region?’’ Ms Sheed said.

Wyuna dairy farmer Russell Pell said he hoped the extra report could provide more certainty and clarity moving forward.

‘‘Surely between all these reports we get a sound basis of where we’re at ... Let’s get that out in the open,’’ Mr Pell said.

The report into the socio-economic effects of the efficiency measures is due to be handed down in December.

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