Country News

Feds urged to get going on basin criteria

By Geoff Adams

The Federal Government is being urged to work faster on a policy to protect irrigation farmers and rural communities from losing too much water under the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

The Ministerial Council representing the basin states and the Federal Government promised a set of criteria to apply to new water recovery projects to ensure there was no negative effects.

However the promise was made in June and the work has not yet been completed.

Having grown tired of waiting, the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Group has produced its own set of criteria.

Group co-chair and member for Shepparton, Suzanna Sheed has urged the
Federal Government to work faster on developing the neutrality test for on-farm water recovery ahead of the December Ministerial Council meeting.
‘‘They’ve left it too late in the day to start this work,’’ she said.
‘‘Because the Commonwealth has done nothing in this space, we were very concerned to get the ball rolling and get our community looking at the issue,’’ she said.
She has accused accused the Federal Government of failing to acknowledge how important the work was.
But federal Member for Murray, Damian Drum said the guidelines were always due to come out around this time because they had to give everybody the chancecoman opportunity to look at them before being agreed on by early to-to-mid December.
‘‘The big challenge is to continue until we get all states on board,’’ he said.
Mr Drum said they would accept feedback on the criteria between now and when the ministerial council met again in mid to late ntemid-to-late December.
Ms Sheed said releasing the criteria was essential. com‘‘Part of the work that communities often have to do is advocate for what they want,’’ she said.

‘‘Had we been silent on this, we may not have seen a result,’’ she said.
Ms Sheed said she had been was aware the Victorian and NSW governments were also working on their own criteria, which was released on Monday.
‘‘We know we’ve got a deadline of December,’’ she said.
Federal Water and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud reassured Victorian irrigators that the government was working on a neutrality test which would be ready in time for the December ministerial council meeting.
‘‘Criteria for on-farm projects is being developed and is on track to meet its deadline,’’ he said.
‘‘This official criteria is extremely important and must stand up to scrutiny from all sides of the debate, and all states states’ proper science takes time and cannot be rushed.
‘‘Basin states have been consulted and a discussion paper will be released shortly for community consultation.’’