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Call for Ministers to support communities

A community group has called for a stop to the misinformation, accompanied by political and media hype, over water recovery under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The Speak Up Campaign, which represents communities in southern NSW and northern Victoria, says the false information being widely circulated about Basin Plan achievements is providing the public with a false perception in an already complex area.

“Metropolitan media and some politicians, it seems especially those from the left, keep bemoaning the recovery of only two or 2.6 gigalitres from a 450 gigalitre target under the Basin Plan. But this is a selective use of volumes and an obvious intent to mislead the public, which is mischievous and also having an adverse effect on rural communities,” according to Speak Up deputy chair Lloyd Polkinghorne

He said more than 2,100 GL has been recovered under the Basin Plan and latest reports are showing it is having a positive environmental benefit.

“This 2,100 gigalitres has come primarily from irrigation farmers in southern New South Wales and northern Victoria. It is these communities that have done all the heavy lifting under the Basin Plan, yet they get no recognition. All we seem to hear is that the Basin Plan is failing and only two of 450 gigalitres has been recovered. This could not be further from the truth.”

Mr Polkinghorne said Speak Up has written to new federal Water Minister Tanya Plibersek, urging her to visit the NSW Murray and northern Victoria to get a first-hand account of what has occurred to this point. It has also written to Victorian Water Minister Harriet Shing and NSW Water Minister Kevin Anderson, urging them to hold firm on their current position, as enshrined in the Basin Plan, that the 450 GL of ‘up water’, referred to so often lately, can only be delivered if it does not cause further social and environmental damage.

“We have small communities which suffered job losses of more than 50 per cent, primarily as a result of previous water recovery through buybacks. This can never be allowed to happen in our communities again,” Mr Polkinghorne said.

He added if there are to be further buybacks they must come from South Australian entitlements.

“To this point our regions have suffered under the Basin Plan because we are politically expendable. But now, the new federal Labor Government and Prime Minister Albanese must stand by their commitment to govern for all Australians. We’ve delivered our share of water to the environment. It’s now time for others to step up.”

Mr Polkinghorne also called on the national media to take a more balanced and informative approach to Basin Plan reporting. Speak Up was recently highly critical of inaccurate ABC coverage which linked a water recovery target to a State of the Environment report, despite there being no mention of the target in the SoE report.

“We are unsure if the spate of misleading reports is deliberate, or simply a lack of understanding around how the Basin Plan is implemented. We need to stay aware of the facts: firstly, that more than 2,100 gigalitres of the 2,750 target have been recovered and the remainder is being achieved through projects that deliver environmental benefit; secondly, the 450 ‘up water’ was a last minute addition to the Basin Plan at the insistence of South Australia, and is conditional on only being recovered if there are no adverse social and economic impacts.

“We also must be mindful of the ability to deliver volumes downstream without flood damage; surely, Australia has suffered enough flood damage without causing more through human mismanagement. The Basin Plan is complex, so let’s accept that and work to achieve the best plan possible, instead of continuing to use it as a political and ideological football,” Mr Polkinghorne concluded.

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