Water

Governments must stop ignoring evidence on basin plan

By Country News

Governments must stop ignoring the mountain of evidence telling us the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is failing, according to Speak Up.

Deputy chair and Blighty dairy farmer Lachlan Marshall said the notion it was ‘‘the only plan we have’’ was ridiculous and absurd.

He said there was mounting evidence of flaws in the plan, which were causing significant environmental damage and affecting food-producing regions.

‘‘Yet we still have politicians, led by Federal Water Minister David Littleproud, in denial. It’s ludicrous,’’ Mr Marshall said.

‘‘During summer we saw the ecological disaster associated with no flows coming down the Darling River.

‘‘But it was accompanied by more man-made damage, caused by trying to force too much water through the fragile Barmah Choke.’’

Mr Marshall described the flooding and ecological damage to the Choke and other parts of the Murray River system as ‘‘yet another prime example’’ of what happens when governments and bureaucrats fail to engage with local communities.

‘‘The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has continually told our regional community that it will work with us on basin plan implementation, but they have always been hollow words with very little action,’’ he said.

‘‘Murray Valley locals have been warning since the basin plan was drafted that the Murray River could not physically deliver the volumes of water that it proposed should be poured over the South Australian border.

‘‘Numerous individuals with decades of experience in managing water emphasised time and again that it just won’t fit.

‘‘But they wouldn’t listen.

‘‘As a consequence we’ve had an environmental disaster and lost opportunities for production through water wastage.

‘‘This has had social and economic consequences for our regional communities and has forced an unprecedented number of family farmers to walk off their land.

‘‘Politicians need to stop procrastinating — stop telling us this plan is the best we’ve got, admit it is a disaster and do something to fix it.’’

Mr Marshall called for an emergency general security allocation for NSW Murray irrigators and for the basin plan to be reset and fixed.

‘‘Food producers and environmentalists have a lot in common, and in the southern basin we do not want to see the Murray environment destroyed from over-watering,’’ he said.

‘‘We also want the Darling system to be protected, however, unless there are changes to the basin plan, what we saw in the past summer will continue to happen.

‘‘Governments cannot expect the Murray River and its storages to meet 100 per cent of flow targets to the SA border, which is not practical or achievable.’’