Opinion

Cost shift could help irrigators

By Country News

Regarding the story headlined ‘G-MW reform call’ (Country News front page, February 20):

‘‘Review is to keep costs down so that irrigators are not faced with excessive prices, which is causing declining water delivery and industry exits ...’’

Basically the cost of water usage has been increased/priced beyond what irrigators can afford to pay.

A simple solution to this is to increase the (high-security water) Storage Fee (currently $10.70/Ml for my area), by say $10/Ml (as a round figure for calculations). Then reduce the Infrastructure Access Fee (currently $28.70/Ml for my area), by the same amount.

The current Infrastructure Access Fee is only paid by irrigators who own the farms that the water can be used on.

Although this would not change my water bill by a single cent, it would generate another $40million per year in revenue for Goulburn-Murray Water, which could be used to reduce overall cost/Ml for irrigators, and reduce the need for price increases for a number of years, thus making it more affordable for irrigators.

The $40million is calculated on the fact that more than 50 per cent of all the water (more than eight million megalitres) is held by the environmental authority and investors, who only pay the miserable storage fee and no Infrastructure Access Fee.

This increase in prices to non-irrigators would still only represent a total cost of less than 0.75 per cent of their assets value.

In the story headlined ‘16Gl water to be sold’ (Country News, February 20, page 13) it states that 16Gl (16000Ml) of environmental water is to be sold on the temporary market.

This is after all environmental flows have been completed and some (they are not telling us how much) has been held over for next year.

Being that the environmental authority is a government body, this is just another way to rip more money off irrigators for the government’s coffers.

This water should be given back to G-MW to be reallocated to the other water owners/users. In other words we may then actually see an allocation in the low-security water (we pay storage fees for this as well), which hasn’t happened in the past 20 years.

Then there’s the story headlined ‘Basin plan threatened’ (Country News, February 20, page 3).

This has been one of the biggest stuff-ups in Australia’s history.

They are still chasing after the original so-called amount of the environmental flow water ‘‘we needed to have’’.

To be fair to all farmers/irrigators who have taken part/are still taking part in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, it should continue as is and then all this extra water that is above environmental requirements (probably above 150Gl) could be returned to those irrigators, who had to give up their water under this plan, on a pro rata basis.

The thing is unless we (governments included) do something to save agriculture in Australia, we will have none. What we will have is basically one great national park.

Then where will our food, etc come from?

Yes, we can import it, but how are we going to pay for it when we have nothing to export?

—John Gledhill

Pompapiel

SDL adjustment threatened

The recent Northern Basin Amendment disallowance motion passed by the Senate has little or no impact on the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.

Senate support for this disallowance motion stemmed from the review process, outdated data, and modelling used assumptions of compliance by NSW and the protection of environmental flows. These issues together with accusations of criminal and corruptive practices currently under investigation in NSW and Queensland gave senators no alternative.

Of direct impact to the GMID is the Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment recommendation of 605Gl, recently tabled in parliament and at risk of also coming under the scrutiny of the Senate if a disallowance motion is moved.

Unlike the Northern Basin Amendment the SDL adjustment recommendation will pass or fail not on the quality of inputs or the recommendation but be judged on the commitment of all states to the total SDL package agreed in the basin plan.

The SDL adjustment agreement consists of three elements and unfortunately both NSW and Victorian ministers together and highly public groups have been advocating for removal of both the 450Gl up-water and constraints management from the agreed package.

The greatest threat to the acceptance of the SDL adjustment recommendation in parliament and perhaps the basin plan is the highly public campaign being waged to undermine intent of the SDL package which was agreed to by all states.

—John Pettigrew and

Terry Court, Goulburn Valley

Environment Group

Biased reporting disappoints

I realise the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a very complex issue, however that is no excuse for the bias in reporting by the ABC and many other media outlets.

Last week every ABC news report I saw in relation to the basin plan disallowance motion included the phrase ‘‘the amendment which will return 70Gl back to irrigators’’, or similar.

This is a blatant misrepresentation of what the amendment was about, which was reducing the volume to be removed from irrigation in the northern basin.

In addition, throughout the basin plan debate and subsequent ABC coverage, there has been barely a mention of the loss of agricultural production, jobs, economic input to the nation, the environmental damage (ie riverbank erosion and slumping) occurring in the Murray River thanks to the massive volumes of water which are being forced through the Murray system.

This ideological environmental bias flows through to other left-wing media who ignore the basin plan’s many failings.

Why haven’t they highlighted issues around the desperate need for infrastructure works at the end of system, and the simple fact that we are trying to turn a traditional estuarine system into a freshwater system? It was estuarine until the barrages were built less than 80 years ago.

In my view, the lack of balance in much of our journalism is irresponsible. It is about time media outlets such as the ABC took the time to better educate their audience about all aspects of the basin plan, including the risk to their food security from reducing by half the volume of water available for food and fibre production.

—Neil Eagle

Barham, NSW