Scepticism over new Plan review

Irrigators sceptical about a new Basin Plan review


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NEW PANEL: Plans by Federal Water Minister David Littleproud for a new panel, to look at socio-economic conditions in Murray-Darling Basin communities, have been met with scepticism by irrigators.

NEW PANEL: Plans by Federal Water Minister David Littleproud for a new panel, to look at socio-economic conditions in Murray-Darling Basin communities, have been met with scepticism by irrigators.

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Irrigators question the value of a new Murray Basin review panel.

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Victorian and southern Riverina farmers have questioned a planned Murray Darling Basin Authority panel, being set up to look at social and economic conditions in irrigation communities.

Federal Water Minister David Littleproud has announced the formation of the panel, which he said would also look at the underlying causes of socio-economic conditions, facing communities.

"Farmers and rural communities across the Murray-Darling Basin are facing drought at the same time as the effects of Australia's biggest ever water reform occur," Mr Littleproud said.

"It makes sense to set up an independent panel and find out exactly what's happening across the whole Basin.

"There's a lot of debate and conflicting opinions out there - let's have an independent expert analysis of the facts.

Read more: Irrigators say they're the refugees of the Riverina

He said communities and governments needed to have the right information available, to build strong, diverse local economies for rural and regional Australia.

"This will allow governments to build the right strategies for the future," Mr Littleproud said.

"We need to check on how our communities are tracking and listen to their experiences and insights.

"It is critical that communities are consulted at every stage of this new research."

The panel of experts, with community connections, would oversee the research and ensure the community was part of it.

No faith

But Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Chris Brooks said he had no faith in the work of the panel.

"No, absolutely not - we know the Basin is stuffed," Mr Brooks said.

"The thing the MDBA was supposed to do, and it's part of its charter, is to carry out socio-economic tests for all regions, to make sure we were all getting the benefits of the so-called triple bottom line," Mr Brooks said.

He said the only test that was done was on the northern basin, which was least affected.

"They never did one for the Murray, the Murrumbidgee, or the Goulburn," Mr Brooks said.

"Now, out of the blue, Littleproud has decided he may have to do some testing, to confirm things are okay.

"It's just a joke - it's a waste of time."

Katunga dairy farmer Daryl Hoey said while it was probably a good thing the work was being done, there would be a range of different ideological positions on its findings.

"Regardless of what the findings are, there will always be one side that will reject them," Mr Hoey said.

"The debate is almost toxic, at the moment, and it hasn't been helped by Labor playing politics, around lifting the 1500Gigalitre cap.

Read more: Labor vows to revoke 'dud" 450GL deal

"Farming communities have lost all confidence in the Labor Party, already, even before the election.

"And the current government has done nothing to support, or help us, through the debate in the last six years."

Mr Hoey said there was already enough evidence to suggest what the impact on the community had been.

"The MDBA has done its own analysis so I can't see what another report is going to show what we don't already now know."

Water buybacks

Barooga, NSW, mixed farmer John Bruce asked what would happen if the study showed the Murray Darling Basin Plan and water buybacks were destroying communities.

'" Do they change the plan, even pause it?," Mr Bruce said.

"Or do they just soldier on, and the communities are collateral damage?"

He said he didn't think there was much point to setting up the panel if nothing came out of it.

"They'll spend x amount of dollars, for what outcome?" he said.

"Communities are pushing the Pause the Plan argument, at the moment, and I don't think there is any harm, in doing that," he said.

The panel needed to look at the impact on local towns, such as Berrigan, Finley and Deniliquin, where there were significant job losses.

"We can't afford to have any more buybacks or water remove out of these communities."

Mr Bruce said he'd also like to see the panel look at the Water Act.

"One of the things that needs to be pulled apart is the Water Act," he said.

"South Australia was clever enough to get into it and it's really crucifying the upstream communities."

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