A new consultants report may pave the way for the Murray-Darling Basin to get more water for the environment.
The report, commissioned by the Federal Government, says it is possible to get the 450Gl of ‘up-water’ in addition to the agreed target of 2750Gl without causing negative socio-economic damage.
And new Federal Water Minister David Littleproud has already said he wants to see the 450Gl delivered.
The Ernst and Young report has been described as ‘‘disappointing’’ by Goulburn Valley water leaders and joint chair of the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Group David McKenzie.
Mr McKenzie said although it was a bulky document, there appeared to be little new analysis or insight that might help basin state ministers make sound decisions about how to design appropriate strategies and programs to complete the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Water leaders are worried that taking the extra 450Gl from the consumptive pool will damage irrigation communities.
Committee for Greater Shepparton chief executive officer Sam Birrell said the executive summary of the report stated there was evidence the 450Gl could be recovered, subject to a number of ‘‘overarching risks’’.
‘‘They have missed the biggest risk of all — that continued removal of water from the consumptive pool for irrigation makes some regions and industries unviable in seasons with lower water allocation,’’ Mr Birrell said.
The committee continues to be worried about the way the Murray-Darling Basin Authority addresses concerns from community leaders.
‘‘The report identified an absence of trust in stakeholder engagement,’’ Mr Birrell said.
‘‘This has manifested itself in the very nature of the Ernst and Young report consultation process.
‘‘Our leaders who participated in these consultations have reported to us that the tone of the discussion was ‘how do we get the water’ not ‘can we get the water with no negative socio-economic impact’.’’
Mr Littleproud said: ‘‘I remain committed to delivering the plan to which all basin governments agreed, the 450Gl and delivering efficiency measures without negative social or economic impacts.’’
State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said she was pleased Mr Littleproud had reiterated that commitment and trusted he would hold his government and department to that.
‘‘I know he comes from an area which has been impacted by water loss,’’ Ms Sheed said.
‘‘He should also understand the impacts on a regional basis.’’
The report noted in a summary: ‘‘Despite the efforts of governments to date across the basin there is diversity of views in relation to water recovery, a general lack of clarity as to measures and objectives, no common language and an absence of trust.’’
■Read more responses to the report at: www.countrynews.com.au