Community leaders from the NSW Murray have backed Victorian calls, opposing plans to take a further 450Gigalitres of environmental water, under the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
Murray Valley Private Diverters Chair Andrew Hicks said regional leaders told Federal Water Minister David Littleproud the region was at a tipping point.
“The Southern Basin has contributed 82per cent of the water recovered under the Basin Plan,” Mr Hicks said.
Regional leaders met with Federal Water minister David Littleproud last week, telling him the Murray Valley had nothing left to give.
Mr Hicks said they told Mr Littleproud the government must recognise the disproportionate impact of the Plan, on communities.
NSW irrigators backed the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership group in arguing no more water could be recovered, from either area.
The GMID group claims 1772GL has been recovered for the environment, in the Southern Connected Basin, with 1100GL from irrigators. The group says the GMID is the most significant contributor, with 340GL, or 31pc of the 1100 GL - more than 20pc of the GMID's water.
It said the Commonwealth must accept recovering the additional 450GL would inevitably cause further socio-economic hardship, if retrieved from irrigators. The group also called for the government to abandon the Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency program (COFFIE).
The Victorian government gained an assurance from the other states and the Commonwealth all parties would work on a socio-economic neutrality test, to assess all projects that could hypothetically contribute to the 450GL, above the Plans 2750GL target.
Victoria also secured an agreement the Commonwealth would not seek further water recovery, in the state, through on-farm projects.
Wakool River Association chairman John Lolicato said groups on both sides of the Murray River were now in unison.
“As far as the neutrality test goes, we now have consistent messaging across the Victorian and NSW Murray side of the border,” Mr Lolicato said.
“The 450 GL can go nowhere if there is a socio-economic cost.”
He said consultation on the socio-economic neutrality test was handled “appallingly.”
There were also fears that if on-farm works, to return water to the environment took place in other states, irrigators would look to the Goulburn-Murray for supply.
“They believe there are going to be no ramifications if they get the water from other sources,” Mr Lolicato said.
“That distorts the water market, the first thing they will do is go and buy the cheapest water available, which is in the Murray Goulburn.”
“The underlying measure of all of this is that if one megalitre leaves a regional area, it is reducing the productive pool,” he said.
“It will affect the community.”
Mr Hicks called for a more flexible and adaptive approach, for the long-term sustainability of the entire Basin.
While the Murray group supported the principal of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) in the Southern Basin, it must include the capacity for new projects to be added.
“We also called for the Murray Darling Basin Authority to be provided with the flexibility and legislative capacity to call for improvements to the Basin Plan and an extension of the Water Resource Plans timeframes to accommodate the disproportionate scale of NSW requirements,” Mr Hicks said.
“With any project, an adaptive and flexible approach as new information becomes available is needed. Without it, we won’t get the best results, and we believe the environment, communities and taxpayers deserve the best. Currently, we are far from it,” Mr Hicks said.
Mr Littleproud said he had held good discussions with irrigators and communities in Shepparton and Deniliquin, last week.
“The 450GL for the environment and the 605GL for irrigators are tied together - part of the same mechanism,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Irrigators stand to lose more than they gain if the plan is blown up.
“The 450GL can only be recovered through projects with positive or neutral socio-economic impacts.”