A coalition of 22 environment, indigenous and community groups has called on state and federal governments to implement the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on time and in full with no changes to environmental water recovery targets.
The group has called for no further delay or weakening of environmental water recovery targets, including the extra 450Gl of up-water which some farmers fear could see too much productive irrigation water taken out of the system.
Australian Conservation Foundation’s James Trezise slammed the delay in delivering the plan.
‘‘Despite promises to deliver the basin plan in full and on time, we have seen nothing but delay from the Turnbull Government when it comes to delivering on the full commitments outlined in the basin plan,’’ Mr Trezise said.
‘‘Another delay on the promised 450Gl of water for the river would be a kick in the guts for our native wildlife and the people of South Australia.’’
However others have defended the delay, with an October report completed by the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Forum into the socio-economic effects of delivering the additional 450Gl of up-water finding the water could not be delivered without adverse implications.
State Member for Shepparton and group chair Suzanna Sheed said the report showed that delivering the 450Gl would result in ‘‘extreme impacts’’ on dairy and horticulture, should another drought occur.
Environmental Farmers Network water spokesperson John Pettigrew from Bunbartha called for rigour to be restored to the sustainable diversion limits.
‘‘A full range of efficiency constraints and supply measures with robust business cases and risk assessments should be submitted to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority for assessment and the assessment must occur within the limits of change hardwired into the basin plan,’’ Mr Pettigrew said.
Federal Agriculture and Water Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the terms of reference for the latest report last month, reiterating the conditions surrounding the additional 450Gl.
‘‘The Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the 2013 Intergovernmental Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the Murray-Darling Basin mandate that the recovery of an additional 450Gl of up-water through efficiency measures can only proceed if it will have no adverse socio-economic impacts on basin communities and industries,’’ Mr Joyce said.
‘‘I have heard first-hand from communities across the basin about their concerns about socio-economic impacts of water recovery, and I understand that these impacts can be complex to understand and quantify. They don’t just stop at the farm gate.’’
The report is due to be released in December.