Agricultural leaders worried about the loss of irrigation water under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan are ramping up pressure on political leaders as they head towards the next ministerial conference at Mildura on Friday.
The Victorian Government will go to the meeting armed with two reports outlining the social and economic impacts of further water transfers out of agricultural use — one prepared by the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Forum.
The most recent, produced by the Victorian Government, pointed to the closure of the Campaspe Irrigation District in 2010 as an example of what could happen when water allocations reduced to an untenable level.
Water industry leaders are pointing to the report, Social and Economic Impacts of the Basin Plan in Victoria, as a warning to basin governments and urging the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to commission an independent study on how the plan is affecting communities.
Representatives of the six governments involved in the authority will meet at Mildura next week to discuss the future.
The GMID Water Industry Leadership Forum released a report estimating the dairy industry was losing $200million a year at the farm gate.
Forum member David McKenzie urged anyone involved in the future of communities of northern Victoria or southern NSW to read the executive summary of the new Victorian report.
The group was asking for the water recovery plan to stop at 2750Gl, as agreed by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council, and not to pursue a further 450Gl, because of the damage the reduction would do to the economies of the southern basin.
Mr McKenzie said the authority had always acknowledged what it called ‘‘some pain’’ for communities affected by the water transfer.
‘‘I am asking all proponents of the plan to answer the question: do you believe the plan should be implemented at any cost? I don’t believe any rational person would argue that point.
‘‘If not, ‘any cost’ then what cost to the rural communities is enough pain?
‘‘It’s time for (South Australian Senator) Nick Xenophon, (Federal Labor water spokesman) Tony Burke and (Goulburn Valley Environment Group spokesman) John Pettigrew, to answer those questions.’’
Terry Court from Tatura argues that if the region is to achieve a sustainable irrigation industry and a healthy environment, water industry leaders and all other stakeholders should be hell-bent on reducing the extent of the delivery system and number of irrigated enterprises.
‘‘If that means more money has to be made available, so be it. This is our last chance to fix our over-allocated irrigation system,’’ Mr Court said in a letter published inside Country News today.