Southern Riverina Irrigators is concerned the political posturing of the South Australian Government will undermine upstream communities and put the entire Murray-Darling Basin Plan at risk.
SRI chairwoman Gabrielle Coupland said the outcome of last week’s Basin Ministerial Council meeting was all the more discouraging after she and fellow NSW and Victorian stakeholders unanimously raised concerns about further water recovery at a stakeholder event with ministers on Monday night.
Media reports say SA Water Minister Ian Hunter has withdrawn support for a package of projects to reduce the water recovery target by 605Gl in return for infrastructure and rule changes to better manage environmental flows.
‘‘It is bitterly disappointing that the basin ministers couldn’t find common ground to deliver for the environment while avoiding further negative impact to communities, despite NSW and Victoria proposing a compromise,’’ Mrs Coupland said.
‘‘Unfortunately, it seems for the South Australian Government it is all about the bottom end and political gain, but for the rest of us it is about our businesses, our livelihoods and our local environment as well as the whole system.
‘‘If the adjustment falls over, it means that more water has to come from farms and businesses across the southern basin, including South Australian irrigators, which could completely undermine some irrigation districts.
‘‘We have seen report after report saying that environmental water recovery has had an impact on irrigation industries and regional economies.
‘‘I am glad that the NSW and Victorian governments have not yielded to Minister Hunter’s political posturing and are standing up for their people.’’
Mrs Coupland said the basin plan specifically linked the recovery of ‘‘up-water’’ to neutral or positive social and economic outcomes.
‘‘The basin ministers heard about an Ernst and Young report into the socio-economic impact. I commend NSW and Victoria for taking that — and feedback from constituents — into consideration when proposing a compromise,’’ she said.
‘‘After speaking to Minister Hunter personally on Monday night, I hoped he would be more practical than political when it came to the MinCo meeting.
‘‘Everyone needs to focus on delivering a balanced and equitable basin plan.’’
Mrs Coupland said it was a shame Barnaby Joyce was being shifted out of the portfolio at this pivotal time but hoped new Agriculture Minister David Littleproud would maintain the balanced approach and commitment for no further negative social and economic impacts in the delivery of the basin plan.