Water

Plan halt refused

By Country News

Calls for a pause to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan may be growing around the region, but the Federal Government won’t be joining the chorus.

That was the clear message delivered by Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum during their visit to the Goulburn Valley last week.

Speaking to a drought summit at Valley Pack in Mooroopna, Mr Drum said he ‘‘couldn’t agree more’’ with the sentiment of the ‘Pause the Plan’ movement.

Yet he said the answer was not pausing the plan, but moving forward a review of the southern basin, scheduled to occur in 18 months’ time.

‘‘The people in this room don’t understand our political opponents. If you legislatively pause the plan, what’s it going to look like when our opponents unpause it?’’ he said.

‘‘There will be a real risk to pause the plan — that’s just the hard, cold reality. If we pause the plan we have no control over how we restart it.’’

The comment failed to resonate with the crowd, with a chorus of ‘‘it couldn’t be worse’’ rising from the crowd.

‘‘Well, 4000Gl for the environment is worse than 2145Gl,’’ Mr Drum said.

The support for a review did little to placate the frustrated crowd, with many demanding swift action.

‘‘Eighteen days is just about too much,’’ Katunga dairy farmer Bridget Goulding told Mr Drum.

Katamatite dairy farmer Simone Ross said starting a review today would be too late, while Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Chris Brooks said a review could soon be pointless.

‘‘No-one is going to be here in 18 months’ time,’’ he yelled from the crowd.

Some, including Tongala’s Wade Northausen, called for the Federal Government to go even further and initiate a royal commission to explore the creation of the basin plan.

Although conceeding the basin plan was far from perfect, Mr Littleproud would not commit to pausing it.

‘‘No,’’ he said when asked whether he would consider a legislative stop.

‘‘I don’t want to stand here and lie to you, I’m going to tell it like it is ... be careful what you wish for.

‘‘I’ve got to get a solution that will at least deliver something.’’

With a federal election looming, Barham’s Darcy Hare said he believed comments that a worse plan could be put on the table if the government lost the election were simply fearmongering.

‘‘We need to pause the plan to get some breathing room,’’ he said.

‘‘Basin Plan 2.0 is stuffing us as much as Basin Plan 1.0. It’s destroying us. We’ve already stripped enough water from this region.

‘‘If we don’t change something soon the area’s going to be 50 per cent worse off (in two or three years).’’