Greater Shepparton City Council calls for basin plan review

By Country News

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan must be reviewed according to Greater Shepparton City Council, which says hundreds of jobs in the region have been lost as a result of the basin plan and answers are needed.

The council flagged its intention to push for the review last week, saying the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District had lost more than $550million in productivity each year.

City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O’Keeffe said the council supported a review of a number of facets of the plan, including the environmental damage from inter-valley flows on the Goulburn River and two policies flagged by federal Labor — the potential for review of the socio-economic neutrality test and the potential for the lifting of the buyback cap.

‘‘Based on the outcomes to date there is the need and opportunity to review the plan and ensure that decision-making is based on up-to-date information,’’ Cr O’Keeffe said.

The review had been a long time coming according to councillor Dennis Patterson, who said enough was enough.

‘‘It’s just devastating ... a lot of people are hurting,’’ he said.

‘‘The four points we’ve outlined are just the tip of the iceberg.’’

Cr Patterson will also represent the council as part of the Murray-Darling Association, a coalition of basin councils who provide representation of local government and communities at state and federal levels in the management of basin resources.

‘‘There’s going to be a lot more push from councils,’’ Cr Patterson said.

Should a much-pushed-for royal commission take place, it was key the terms of reference encompassed all areas of concern, according to Cr Patterson.

‘‘We’re the ones that have given up all the water ... (irrigators) are crying out for water,’’ he said.

Murray-Darling Basin Authority community profiles published in June last year estimated 1245 full-time jobs had been lost in the GMID, but only a portion of that was attributed to the basin plan.

Research commissioned by the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Group in 2016 found that the early stages of implementation of the plan had led to a 20 per cent reduction of average water use in the GMID, borne largely by the dairy sector, a loss of $200million per year in the value of farm gate production, a loss of $360million in output value for the dairy processing sector and a loss of $25million in annual farm gate value for the mixed farming sector.

The council said it would work with the community to advocate for a review of the basin plan.