Tensions are continuing to rise following comments by South Australian Water Minister Ian Hunter that the state would no longer support amendments to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Mr Hunter has been accused of trying to ‘‘blow up’’ the basin plan and of ‘‘spitting the dummy’’ by irrigators and community groups who have been left fuming at his comments, yet some say they can understand his frustration.
National Irrigators Council chief executive officer Steve Whan slammed Mr Hunter for his comments and accused him of trying to prevent the basin plan from progressing.
‘‘Urging the federal parliament to disallow these amendments is essentially saying they don’t want the basin plan to proceed. If they knock back the 605Gl in SDL projects, that is a really serious blow to rural irrigation communities,’’ he said.
‘‘Instead of making public statements and trying to get votes in South Australia, he should travel to NSW and Victoria and speak about the level of commitment they are showing and work through these things and all achieve a result, rather than just essentially blowing it up.’’
Yet Mr Whan’s views were not shared by Goulburn Valley Environment Group president John Pettigrew who said although he didn’t approve of metaphorically holding a gun to anyone’s head, he could understand Mr Hunter’s frustration.
‘‘During the implementation of the plan it has been undermined in several ways; I can certainly understand that Minister Hunter is disappointed and frustrated,’’ Mr Pettigrew said.
‘‘I certainly advocate for the plan to be implemented in full ... but I struggle to see where we’re going to get the bipartisan support from the way the process is panning out at the moment.’’
VFF water spokesperson Richard Anderson urged Mr Hunter to take a breath, saying it was too late and too far into the process for a ‘‘dummy spit’’.
‘‘We know there’s a few issues but you shouldn’t be holding a gun to anyone’s bloody head. He is part of that process and he should be sticking to it,’’ he said.
Speak Up campaign spokesperson Shelley Scoullar agreed and said all parties needed to make efforts to compromise and, although it would be disappointing if South Australia opposed amendments to the plan, plenty of work had been put in.
‘‘The states are working hard and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority have worked hard to compromise to reduce the impacts whilst still getting environmental outcomes ... We all need to make efforts and compromises to ensure that we have sensible outcomes for everyone.’’