Water

Message not heard

By Country News

A Barmah farmer has been left frustrated by recent comments from Federal Water Minister David Littleproud, accusing him of missing the point at a recent Deniliquin meeting.

Farmer Alan Mathers said he was disappointed to hear Mr Littleproud say ‘‘irrigators stand to lose more than they gain if the (basin) plan is blown up’’, just a few days after he met with the Murray Regional Strategy Group.

‘‘Blowing up the plan is not the message the Murray Regional Strategy Group gave the minister during the hour-and-a-half he spent with our representatives,’’ Mr Mathers said.

‘‘It is disappointing to hear these comments, as we gave the minister a number of key messages and key outcomes, and all were about solutions, not tearing down the plan.’’

He said the impacts go beyond just irrigators.

‘‘What goes largely unrecognised is the impact on businesses, industries, riparian landholders and communities in this whole process,’’ Mr Mathers said.

‘‘This is not just about irrigators, the impacts are far greater than that.’’

Although recognising the need for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, Mr Mathers and others from the Murray Regional Strategy Group said they believed there were issues with incorrect modelling and assumptions made in the plan’s development, and there was a greater need to be adaptive and flexible with the plan’s implementation.

‘‘When the basin plan was drafted these unintended impacts were not foreseen, especially the damage to food producers, irrigation delivery companies and entire regional communities,’’ Mr Mathers said.

‘‘Then, when the plan was being legislated in 2012, an extra 450Gl was added, even though at the time there was no knowledge of what impacts the plan may have.

‘‘That is why we presented solutions to Minister Littleproud, which take into account what we have seen occur over the past six years.

‘‘What we offered was an adaptive and flexible approach to the basin plan, which will ensure that environmental objectives are met while at the same time limiting the socio-economic impacts to communities.

‘‘After all, we were promised a balance between social, economic and environmental outcomes, which is something we are yet to see.’’