Water

Biased language questioned

By Country News

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Group has challenged the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and now the Productivity Commission over language used in water recovery for the Murray-Darling Basin.

The group has focused on the extra 450Gl of water which could be secured through efficiency measures, because of the qualification that it can only be recovered with neutral or positive socio-economic outcomes.

At a Productivity Commission hearing in Shepparton recently, group co-chair and State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said the region was always prepared to wear the 2750Gl of water for the basin plan, but they had always been concerned with the extra 450Gl.

‘‘We are feeling so disaffected and disengaged in what is happening,’’ Ms Sheed said.

‘‘The lack of any adaptation along the way seems to be hurting the most. This rigidity around it is a real concern.’’

Group co-chair David McKenzie congratulated the commissioners on their draft report into the basin plan, which reflected some of the concerns of the communities that had been struggling to get any traction.

He said the plan had been ruthlessly implemented so far.

‘‘There has been no real allowance of adverse outcomes or pockets of disadvantage,’’ Mr McKenzie said.

‘‘Community advocacy has largely fallen on deaf ears.

‘‘We see the projection of the implementation of the plan in the southern connected basin is almost unchanged from its original design.’’

He described what appeared to be a ‘‘blind worship’’ of deadlines and volumes rather than a focus on outcomes.

‘‘The question is, who is going to bear the pain of the final recovery?

‘‘It is clear to us that the only ideas coming out of the MDBA, out of Canberra for efficiency measures to recover the 450Gl, are to go back to the consumptive pool.

‘‘We think that is an intellectually lazy approach.

‘‘The 450Gl would only be recovered, on the basis of neutral or positive socio-economic outcomes.

‘‘On-farm efficiency programs that involve the permanent transfer of entitlements do cause negative socio-economic outcomes.’’

Mr McKenzie said biased language had found its way into the Productivity Commission’s report.

He pointed to the draft findings and a recommendation that basin governments should explicitly consider potential socio-economic impacts and include mitigation strategies.

‘‘This should include close engagement with affected communities and industries.’’

Mr McKenzie said the principal commitment to positive or neutral socio-economic outcomes was under real attack and language of some of the Productivity Commission’s draft recommendations seems to be laying out a pathway for decision makers to step away from that commitment.