Murray Darling Plan a ‘shambles’: Independent MP

MD Plan a shambles: Independent MP


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Shepparton Independent MP Suzanna Sheed has lashed the Murray Darling Basin plan as being a “shambles”, during a Victorian Parliamentary inquiry hearing into environmental water.

Shepparton Independent MP Suzanna Sheed has lashed the Murray Darling Basin plan as being a “shambles”, during a Victorian Parliamentary inquiry hearing into environmental water.

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It was time to pause the plan until the 11 inquiries and investigations currently being undertaken were concluded, Ms Sheed told the Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development committee into the management, governance and use of environmental water.

“Many in my community say the Murray Darling Basin Plan is a shambles,” Ms Sheed said. “It’s not doing what it’s meant to do - the 11 different inquiries that are going on at the moment, I think, is really strong evidence of that.

“It may be the Murray Darling plan needs a reset.”

She said she was disappointed there hadn’t been an overarching judicial inquiry, into basin plan, rather than 11 different organisations looking into it.

One of the biggest issues which needed to be addressed was the recovery of the additional 450 gigalitres (GL) of environmental upwater.

“Is it really needed?” Ms Sheed said.

“To take that 450Gl would be the tipping point, for our community and for Goulburn-Murray Water’s business.

“The impacts for us, in Victoria, and the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) would really be devastating.”

Ms Sheed told the inquiry last year’s RMCG report had showed a thousand jobs would be lost by 2020, with $550million gone in regional production, due to the plan.

The report also claimed the annual production losses, linked to the unavailability of water, would cost the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) $4.4billion, over the plan’s implementation.

Ms Sheed told the inquiry last year’s RMCG report had showed a thousand jobs would be lost by 2020, with $550million gone in regional production, due to the plan.

The report also claimed the annual production losses, linked to the unavailability of water, would cost the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) $4.4billion, over the plan’s implementation.

Ms Sheed was also critical of the consultation process, carried out on the Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDL’s).

“There hasn’t been sufficient consultation with the community, business cases haven’t been done on them,” Ms Sheed said.

“We were asked to consult, the MDBA comes around and talks to people, at length, ad nauseum, ticks boxes and says it has consulted widely with the community,” Ms Sheed said.

“We are not happy with the process at all, we don’t think they genuinely listened to a lot of what has been undertaken, and their disrespect for the socio-economic report we had undertaken, was extremely disappointing to our community.

“It’s just like (the basin plan) is sacred, and it shouldn’t be treated that way.”

Ms Sheed said she also had concerns about the Ernst Young (EY) report, due to go before the next Water Minister’s council.

A number of members of the GMID Water Leadership Forum had made submissions to EY but she said the feedback she had received was disappointing.

“They seem to be coming with a preordained agenda, that the 450GL had to be obtained, it was just a question of ‘how are we going to get it, you help us guys, come up with some ideas, as to how we will achieve that water,” Ms Sheed said.

“(It wasn’t’) whether it should be achieved, whether our communities could bear the socio-economic impacts, of that water, and so it seemed to really disregard that notion of equality between social, economic and environmental.”

RMCG Environmental and Agricultural consultant, Rob Rendell told the inquiry Victoria had delivered 500GL environmental water more than it had been asked for.

He said carryover rules needed to be tweaked, so there could be a win for both the environment and irrigators.

“We can look at the rules, we have only been looking at the entitlements, we haven’t been looking at the other half of the water,” Mr Rendell said.

“The other thing is we operate the Murray system on a spreadsheet, we have put money into the farms and distribution, but we haven’t put money into running the system, to actually operate in a modern way.”

The flooding of the Barmah forest, two years ago, was greatly enhanced by carryover.

“Let’s go back and redo the modelling and the benefits and say where we can actually get the outcomes,” Mr Rendell said.

“We have spent 100 years, developing rules to maximise how much water we can divert, and we didn’t care too much about the environment.”

“The rules are sacrosanct, we can’t change the rules, because we might change someone’s entitlement yield.”

“The first step was looking at entitlements, and getting them to the environment, the second step is getting much smarter about looking at the rules.”

Mr Rendell said more money needed to be spent on real time monitoring of river systems.

“We really haven’t looked at the Goulburn or Murray.”

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