The Victorian and NSW Governments need to withdraw from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, according to an advocacy group.
Upper Goulburn River Catchment Management Association representative Jan Beer says there appears no other option, with zero appetite from the Albanese Government to listen and understand the implications of its Basin Plan proposals.
Mrs Beer said it has become impossible to reason with new federal Water Minister Tanya Plibersek, so it will be left up to the respective state governments to protect their communities.
“Minister Plibersek does not seem interested in gaining a better understanding of the damage that will be caused by her insistence on recovering the additional 450 gigalitres. She is determined to push ahead with water buybacks because they are the easy option, and is accumulating the money for this purpose. There appears to be no concern for the collateral damage to our communities.
“As such, our association is calling on Victoria and NSW Governments to withdraw from the Basin Plan,” Mrs Beer said.
She said it is beyond comprehension that a government would unnecessarily and deliberately reduce food production, while damaging private and public property. Yet this is what the Water Minister is prepared to do.
“I understand that the Minister has very limited experience in both water management and farming. However, in light of recent flood events, it should not be difficult to understand that forcing massive volumes of water, as proposed, down our river system is physically impossible. So why recover it in the first place?”
Mrs Beer said the recovery target under the Basin Plan was 2,750 gigalitres, with the additional 450GL added at the 11th hour as a demand from the South Australian Government. However, what is generally not understood is that more than this amount is already available to the environment, with the total volume of entitlements held by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and state environmental water holders exceeding 4,500GL.
“Authorities have not been able to deliver all the water they hold for the environment in any one year since the Basin Plan began. They say this is because constraints have not been released, which is effectively blaming the fact that they cannot flood over 6,000 landholders each and every time they want to send their so-called ‘minor’ floods down the river.
“The 2016 flood simulated exactly the proposed environmental flows to South Australia of 60,000 to 80,000 megalitres a day over the border, and this caused enormous economic damage and billions of dollars in lost crops.
“The proposed strategy of ‘piggy-backing’ environmental releases from storages on top of high natural tributary flows to achieve desired targeted environmental flows is fraught with danger, as landholders and prime improved productive land along the floodplains will be destroyed,” Mrs Beer said.
“We have seen all the evidence of man-made flooding and it is an unequivocal fact that the water recovered so far cannot be delivered without causing massive detrimental economic impacts. As such, this inflexible fixation by Minister Plibersek with further recovery through water buybacks is absolute and unbelievable madness.
“Therefore, the only option is for our state governments to withdraw from the Basin Plan. The South Australian Government refused to sign up more than a decade ago if its demands were not met; now it’s time for eastern states to adopt this same type of approach.”