Concerns on MDBA plan shared

By Alana Christensen

Irrigators and community members have aired their frustrations regarding the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, telling a recent Productivity Commission hearing there is a lack of trust and transparency, with community confidence in the plan plummeting.

The commission was in Shepparton last Wednesday to hear responses to its highly critical 359-page draft report which delivered a scathing assessment of the basin plan, savaging parties for a lack of decisive direction-setting leadership and transparency.

Almost 20 people appeared before the commission, with a lack of detail, concerns regarding whether the controversial 450Gl of ‘up-water’ can and should be achieved, and the socio-economic impact of the basin plan key talking points.

Upper Goulburn River Catchment Association representative Jan Beer told commissioner Jane Doolan and associate commissioner for water John Madden concern was growing.

‘‘You don’t rush headlong over the cliff. You stop and take a look around you,’’ Ms Beer said.

‘‘Now is the time to stop, reassess and review.’’

It was a sentiment echoed by many regarding the plan.

Swan Hill stonefruit grower Peta Thornton has long been calling for a basin plan that benefits everyone — including the environment.

She now believes time is running out for this to be achieved.

‘‘I had great high hopes for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and my trust is waning considerably,’’ Ms Thornton said.

Despite handing down 35 draft recommendations, the Productivity Commission noted in its interim report that the ‘‘less dramatic nature’’ of many recommendations could result in a strong temptation to ignore them.

The commission said there was still more work to be done.

‘‘We hear ‘just get it done’, we hear people saying ‘change the laws’ overnight,’’ Mr Madden told the crowd at Shepparton’s Parklake Hotel.

‘‘We’ve still got a deadline looming that doesn’t move.

‘‘We do not have the information to say ‘stop’ ... at the moment.’’