A group of 12 scientists and economists is calling for a radical change in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, saying the billions of dollars spent so far have failed to achieve better water flows.
The group is calling for a halt to all public subsidies and grants towards irrigation infrastructure in the basin and an independent audit to examine environmental outcomes.
‘‘This is not about politics or about playing the ‘blame game’,’’ Australian National University economics professor Quentin Grafton said.
‘‘It is about saying water reform is not delivering what it said it would for the basin, its environment or its people, and saying how we solve it.’’
The group of 12 signatories also includes former chief science adviser to the National Water Commission Richard Davis.
But the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and other water industry leaders have dismissed the declaration.
‘‘Claims that the plan’s investment in more modern and efficient water infrastructure is not delivering benefits for the environment are simply not true,’’ chief executive Phillip Glyde said.
‘‘The basin plan was neither expected nor intended to deliver immediate results.
‘‘It is simply not possible to repair 100 years of damage to such a vast river system overnight, or even within five years.’’
Federal Assistant Water Minister Anne Ruston said scientists would be the first people screaming at them for not delivering the plan on time, ‘‘and yet they are now the ones telling us to stop the plan’’.
The Murray River Group of Councils expressed disappointment at the intervention.
‘‘The assertions in this so-called declaration are simply wrong and shows that Prof Grafton and his group just don’t understand the impact on the communities of the basin,’’ Murray River Group of Councils chairperson Cheryl McKinnon said.
‘‘The assertion that investment in irrigation infrastructure is only providing benefits to irrigators is untrue and is offensive to the people who live in the basin who have put in huge efforts to provide water for the environment.
‘‘The recommendations of the so-called declaration are invalid and represent an irresponsible intervention into the politics of the basin plan.
‘‘It is strange that on one hand Prof Grafton and his group are worried about a waste of taxpayers’ money and on the other want to spend more on an audit and on a group of scientists to apparently replicate the work of the basin authority.
‘‘The communities of northern Victoria and I believe in the whole basin and reject this type of irresponsible and political intervention and strongly urge ministers to reject it too.’’
The Murray River Group of Councils comprises six councils in northern Victoria — Mildura and Swan Hill rural city councils and Loddon, Gannawarra, Campaspe and Moira shires.