A representative from the southern Riverina must be appointed to a panel exploring the socio-economic impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
That was the message from NSW Farmers’ conservation and resource management committee chair Bronwyn Petrie, who said the Federal Government must give them a seat at the table.
Announced last week, the independent research will be conducted by an independent five-member panel with a final report completed by the end of the year following community consultation.
‘‘Irrigators in the Murray region of NSW have, to date, been required to do so much of the heavy lifting to deliver the plan’s objectives. These communities should be amongst the first visited by the panel,’’ Ms Petrie said.
‘‘The inquiry, however, is only as good as the outcomes which come from it and the commitment to heed the concerns of regional communities and act upon them.’’
Federal Agriculture and Water Minister David Littleproud said the panel would assess the conditions in irrigation communities and examine the underlying causes.
‘‘There’s a lot of debate and conflicting opinions out there — let’s have an independent expert analysis of the facts,’’ he said.
NSW Farmers has been calling for an inquiry into the concerns of members for months now, particularly around the efficacy of the basin plan and its impact on regional communities.
‘‘We also called for a re-examination of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism projects to ensure their ability to deliver against the plan’s objectives and, where necessary, consider including new projects to deliver actual efficiencies to provide more water for the environment and for agriculture,’’ Ms Petrie said.
She said members remained concerned with the plan’s ability to deliver against its stated objectives.
‘‘With inflows into the system now at the lowest on records in many river valleys as a result of one of the worst droughts seen since European settlement, the one thing needed to provide more water for the environment is rain to break the drought and begin filling storages again.
‘‘The inquiry itself, though, must be matched by a commitment to act on the concerns of regional communities. Given the pending election, both sides of politics must agree to address concerns of basin communities and, where necessary, uphold important aspects of the plan such as the legislated cap on buybacks and on maintaining the triple-bottom line aspects of the 450Gl up-water targets.’’
■Further information about consultations will be available following the appointment of the panel and the release of the terms of reference.