Come and visit - Sheed offers invitation to Burke

Burke needs to see Plan impact at first hand, says Suzanna Sheed

COME VISIT: Shepparton Independent MP Suzanna Sheed has invited Federal Oppostion Water spokesman Tony Burke to come to the Goulburn Valley to see the impact of the Murray Darling Basin Plan at first hand.

COME VISIT: Shepparton Independent MP Suzanna Sheed has invited Federal Oppostion Water spokesman Tony Burke to come to the Goulburn Valley to see the impact of the Murray Darling Basin Plan at first hand.


Concerns over the Federal Opposition's Murray Basin messages.


Independent Shepparton MP Suzanna Sheed wants Federal Opposition Water spokesman Tony Burke to visit the Goulburn region, to see the impacts of the Murray Darling Basin Plan at first hand.

Ms Sheed travelled to Sydney, with Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership co-chair David McKenzie and dairy farmer Russell Pell to meet with Mr Burke.

Read more: Scathing response to Labor's River plans

He was unable to attend, due to unforeseen family circumstances, but the delegation spoke with one of his advisors.

"However, we have extended an invitation to Mr Burke to come to our region either during the current federal election campaign or immediately after, to hear directly from community leaders about the impact the Murray Darling Basin Plan," Ms Sheed said.

"The messages coming from the federal Labor Party about the Basin Plan are concerning and could have serious further negative impacts on northern Victorian communities, so it is vital we make every attempt to help them understand the reality on the ground."

Mr Burke has said a Labor Government would reverse what he says are the government's harmful changes to the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

He said a Labor Government was committed to introducing a Bill to repeal the 1500Gigalitre cap on water buybacks,

It would also change the socio-economic definition for delivering the 450GL of water for the environment.

Need for certainty

Ms Sheed said she set up the meeting with Mr Burke, to try and understand his thinking about lifting the 1500 Gigalitre cap and his position on the 450GL upwater.

"Irrigated agribusinesses in Basin communities need some certainty," Ms Sheed said.

"The 2018 Ministerial Council agreement and agreement on the Sustainable Diversion Limits had got us to a point where there was a sense of understanding, as to where we were going.

"When he talks about the 450GL and lifting the cap, we naturally become very anxious in our communities, again."

Ms Sheed said residents of the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District understood the strong concerns about the fish kill, in the Darling River.

'But there is nothing you can do, in the southern Basin, to address those issues."

"They need to be looking to the northern Basin for solutions."

Ms Sheed said the delegation raised issues of damage being done to the environment, by delivering high volumes of intervalley trade water, down the Goulburn and through the Barmah Choke.

Read more: Record IVT trade transfers says MDBA

"In the Goulburn Valley, we are finding a lot of environmental work the catchment management authorities have done is effectively being washed away, by such high flows, over a long time."

She said it would good for Mr Burke to come to the region, to highlight to him the crisis in the northern dairy industry.

"Should the Labor Party win the election, we would expect that the MinCo socio-economic test would continue to apply and be upheld, and we'll be watching closely to make sure the spirit and intent are upheld."

There had been a decline of 47 per cent in water use in the GMID, putting upward pressure on Goulburn-Murray Water prices to maintain the system.

" At the same time, farmers' capacity to pay higher water charges is diminished because owning less entitlement means they have to buy more water on the temporary market," Ms Sheed said.

"The high costs of temporary water and fodder, coupled with the drought conditions, are sending farmers in our region broke."

Stranded assets

Mr McKenzie said the dairy industry supply chain was already breaking down as a result of rising water costs and scarcity, with farmers and dairy companies unable to share the burden by passing some of the costs on to consumers.

"Commonwealth and Victorian governments have invested $2 billion in modernising GMID infrastructure, but falling water use and productivity are increasing the risk of these assets being left stranded," Mr McKenzie said.

"Not only are the impacts on the dairy industry resulting in farmers being forced to leave the industry, but they will also have a flow-on effect to horticulture in our region."

"What we really want to do is shine a light on the GMID, and the nuances in the context of the overall Basin Plan," Mr McKenzie said.

"Any reduction in the consumptive pool ultimately comes back to hit the GMID hardest."

He said buybacks would mean irrigators, outside the GMID, would come to the region, looking for high-reliability water.

"We really want to have a conversation about the benefits and negative impacts of the plan, which are not evenly spread.

"Some areas are doing okay; others are feeling more pain."

"Northern Victoria is wearing most of the pain and seeing very little of the benefit."

Mr McKenzie said Mr Burke needed to be aware of the effects of his rhetoric on regional communities.

"The statements Mr Burke has been making on lifting the cap and discarding the newly minted socio-economic test is having a serious impact on communities and businesses, in the north of Victoria and southern NSW."

Dairy farmer Russell Pell said while many farmers were struggling to stay on the land, the local environment was also facing challenges, particularly as a result of the high rate of intervalley transfers and additional environmental flows through the Goulburn River system.

"The volume of summer water transfers down the Goulburn River has tripled in recent years, and steady high flows are drowning vegetation established to stabilise the banks," Mr Pell said.

"It seems ridiculous that under a Plan designed to support a triple bottom line of environmental, social and economic welfare, the health of our river system would be sacrificed for the sake of sending water further downstream for consumptive and environmental use."


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