Report fuels review calls

By Country News

A ‘‘damning’’ report has only reinforced the need for all bodies to review and revise the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, according to Yea’s Jan Beer.

The Productivity Commission report, released prior to the long weekend, recommended the role of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority be split, the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources better ensure that water recovery aligns with environmental requirements, and that further assistance be provided to communities that have experienced substantial adverse impacts.

Ms Beer slammed the MDBA for ‘‘ticking their own box’’.

‘‘They are marking their own homework ... you’d have to be blind to think they’ve come off well (in the report),’’ she said.

‘‘They have been absolutely slammed. You can’t deny that fact.’’

The MDBA drew harsh criticism in the report for a lack of transparency and consultation with the community.

Ms Beer said the manner in which the authority has engaged with the community has ‘‘turned them off’’.

‘‘You go to all these meetings and then you leave and it’s as if you’ve never even said anything,’’ she said.

‘‘If they keep going we’ll have no dairy industry in northern Victoria.

‘‘It is time they reviewed and revise. They need to review what is realistically possible.

‘‘The MDBA and the Federal Government have buried their head in the sand ... they’re putting their blinkers on.’’

National Irrigators Council chief executive officer Steve Whan labelled the report a ‘‘tough and comprehensive review’’ but it highlighted a way forward and reflected the ‘‘very good progress’’.

‘‘Despite the positive progress there are huge challenges and NIC would agree with most of the issues the commission has flagged as needing attention,’’ Mr Whan said.

‘‘We have frequently expressed concern on the ability to meet certain tasks within the time frames remaining.

‘‘The report reflects the same concern in its recommendations on the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Measures projects, the water resources plans and efficiency projects.’’

Mr Whan said the group welcomed most recommendations and called for greater community consultation and transparency along with maximum flexibility to achieve the projected environmental outcomes.

‘‘The report has proposed major changes to the governance of the MDBA,’’ he said.

‘‘This is not suggesting the MDBA has failed, but rather it raises a relevant issue about whether regulation and reporting should be separated from policy and implementation in the longer term.’’

The report, which has taken almost a year and included multiple rounds of consultations, is ‘‘comprehensive and robust’’ according to National Farmers’ Federation Water Taskforce chair Les Gordon.

‘‘As is the case with all things plan-related, not everyone will be happy with all of the recommendations, but this should not detract from the report’s independence and probity value,’’ Mr Gordon said.