Basin plan ‘at risk’

February 14, 2018

Is federal Labor now putting its own Murray-Darling Basin Plan at risk?

Federal Water Minister David Littleproud has told Southern Riverina Irrigators he is committed to delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to give regional communities certainty.

SRI chair Gabrielle Coupland travelled to Canberra last week to highlight to decision makers the impact of the basin plan on the NSW Murray and the need to support the sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism (offsets) to end water recovery from productive water users.

‘‘I arrived in Canberra the day after Labor announced they would support the Greens to disallow the Northern Basin Review amendments — which sets a disturbing precedent for the adjustment mechanism,’’ Mrs Coupland said.

‘‘There is a real risk that the actions of the Greens, with Labor’s support, could see the whole basin plan as we know it fall over — but each side has a different opinion of what that means.

‘‘Labor believes they can disallow the adjustment and see a basin plan of 2750Gl worth of held entitlement, but the government is worried that the states may walk away raising legal issues as to how the basin plan can be fully implemented.’’

Mrs Coupland said it was confusing and concerning to see Tony Burke, who wrote the basin plan, put its full implementation at risk.

‘‘This comes down to the difference between ambition and practicality,’’ she said.

‘‘We in the regions know that the easy water recovery has been done and now the focus has to be on managing the environmental portfolio to maximise outcomes.

‘‘At the end of the day that is what the adjustment mechanism is about. Looking for ways to get more from what they have.

‘‘We have always said the basin plan needs to be outcomes-focused — but the Greens are yet again making it simply about a number and unfortunately Labor looks like they are prioritising volume over outcomes.’’

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