Farming groups across southern New South Wales and northern Victoria have launched their strongest ever attack on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
They have called on the upcoming meeting of state and federal water ministers to disband the MDBA, which they claim has failed to be independent and has botched implementation of the Basin Plan.
They say it has consistently refused to acknowledge or accept the plan’s many flaws and failings, and is not delivering the flexible, efficient plan that was promised.
The MDBA has also failed to be an independent body, as per its charter, as its latest communique highlights. It continues to support government directives instead of providing Australians with a transparent assessment of issues that need to be addressed.
Organisations which have joined forces include Northern Victorian Irrigation Communities, Murrumbidgee Industry and Agriculture Communities, Sunraysia Citrus Growers Inc, Speak Up Campaign and Upper Goulburn River Catchment Association.
Spokesmen Kevin Cock and Paul Pierotti said the national Productivity Commission recommended last year that the MDBA be split up after constant claims that it was “marking its own homework”.
“The Prime Minister does not want the distraction of bungled water policy during this difficult time and we are advised he has given instruction that peak bodies downplay the lost production we are experiencing and any threat to food security,” Mr Pierotti said.
“But how long will we allow this to continue, with the massive consequences it is having on our nation’s ability to grow food, not to mention the billions of dollars it is costing our economy,” he added.
Mr Cock said the MDBA refuses to work with communities to overcome Basin Plan issues.
“As a consequence, there seems no choice but to disband this dysfunctional organisation and work out how water management can be reviewed and reset,” he said.
Mr Cock said the MDBA claim in its latest communique that “it is imperative that we keep abreast of community views across the Basin” was laughable.
“The MDBA went to Deniliquin over three years ago, acknowledged its community engagement in the region needed to improve and gave a commitment this would happen. What has that severely impacted community seen since? Virtually nothing.
“It is an absolute joke that the MDBA says it is going to ‘keep abreast of community views’. It’s idea of consultation is telling us what it is going to do, ignoring local input and solutions and barging ahead regardless of the social, economic or environmental damage.”
A main focus in the early part of the MDBA communique was supporting the Agriculture Minister’s false claims that Australia is producing enough food for 75 million people.
Mr Pierotti said: “We know this was the case in the past, but we also know that food production has been severely impacted by a range of factors including the Basin Plan. Why is the MDBA getting involved in a political issue? Should a supposedly independent body be weighing in to this debate, or instead concentrating on delivering a flexible and adaptable plan that balances our water needs?
“I would have thought the latter should be the focus.”
The communique also talked about “the longstanding bi-partisan approach to water management and reform that balances the needs of communities, irrigated industries and the environment”.
“Who are they trying to kid?” Mr Pierotti asked. “If it is so bi-partisan and so balanced, why is the NSW Water Minister (Melinda Pavey) and Deputy Premier (John Barilaro) calling for an urgent meeting and demanding changes to the plan?
“We know, just as Mr Barilaro does, that the claims of ‘balance’ across communities, farmers and the environment are rubbish. There is no balance, there is no adaptability and the environmental damage caused by excessive river flows is ignored.”
Mr Cock added: “Why is the Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville doing everything in her power to restrict detrimental high flows down the Goulburn and stating no more water will be taken out of Victoria? This effectively takes the 450 gigalitres of ‘up water’ off the table. So let’s get rid of the MDBA and work out how the Basin Plan can be re-set.”
Mr Cock and Mr Pierotti said the both believe the time for ‘splitting up’ the organisation, as recommended by the Productivity Commission, has passed.
“It needs to be scrapped and a new organisation established that will work with communities to deliver the adaptive, balanced water reform that was promised but has not been delivered by an organisation that we believe has failed this nation,” they said.