A recent report commissioned by NSW Murray irrigators and community groups has been criticised by the Goulburn Valley Environment Group for being self-serving.
This report identifies industry impacts but does not separate the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan from the effect of other major economic and environmental factors which also contributed to those industries’ decline, the group says.
‘‘For example, rice production has come under growing pressure from alternative crops such as cotton, which currently provides a better return per megalitre of water for farmers,’’ GVEG president John Pettigrew argued.
‘‘Milk production has been affected by a dairy industry crisis that continues to play out in south-east Australia after major processors Murray Goulburn and Fonterra slashed farm gate milk prices, plunging hundreds of farmers into debt,’’ he said.
‘‘The proponents of the review have been ‘cherry picking’ from an incomplete study to highlight impacts on rice and dairy industries and conveniently overlooking growth in some industries.’’
He said the contention that the 2016 flooding of the Murray River was a taste of the damage that could be caused by man-made floods to mimic environmental flows under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was clearly in error and mischievous.
‘‘Flows at the Yarrawonga Weir over the two-week period averaged 56000Ml per day, peaking in excess of 134000Ml per day, or almost four times the volumes of environmental flows under consideration for this reach of the Murray River.
‘‘This was a major Murray River flood.’’
Mr Pettigrew said the question of damage caused by environmental flows to cropping enterprises was complex, with questions surrounding the risks and viability of cropping in low-lying floodplains, the timing of crop maturities and harvesting practices.
‘‘The delivery of environmental flows across the basin is an emerging science with little past experience in many areas, however, we should always remember we’ve been irrigating across this same basin for well over 100 years and are still learning and improving practices.
‘‘The basin plan, for the sake of our rivers and streams and our communities that rely on them, should be delivered as intended and as agreed on by all basin states and the Federal Parliament.’’