Irrigators’ council details election hopes

By Country News

A guarantee of no negative impacts from delivering the 450Gl of ‘up-water’, retaining the cap on buybacks and addressing delivery constraints and losses are top of the National Irrigators’ Council’s election wish list.

Released last Tuesday, the NIC has called for: bi-partisan support for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to continue; it to be ensured that the full 605Gl of Sustainable Diversion Limits Adjustment Mechanism is delivered; and over-recovery issues are resolved.

NIC chief executive officer Steve Whan said the environmental benefits of providing more water needed to be maximised.

‘‘The basin plan will increase flow, but flow targets are not environmental outcomes,’’ he said.

‘‘Additional water is wasted if it goes into — or creates — a habitat that is hostile to native species. We want future governments to build on the basin plan by funding complementary measures. These are things like eliminating cold water pollution, creating habitat conducive to native fish and tackling pest species.

‘‘Australia’s irrigators produce more than 84 per cent of the vegetables, fruit and nuts Australians need and enjoy; along with most of our dairy products, rice, cotton and sugar.’’

The Productivity Commission’s five-year review of the basin plan should be used as a blueprint for any future progress, according to Mr Whan.

‘‘That report told us that there are good early environmental results, but huge challenges remaining — the review needs to form the core of how the next government meets the challenges,’’ he said.

‘‘We have five years to go in basin plan implementation. It’s been a tough process, but it is critical that this election does not break the bipartisan commitment.

‘‘There have been 35 reports into the basin plan since it was introduced, no doubt there will be more, but if we want to achieve environmental results we need to keep implementing — not stopping to re-argue the most divisive and difficult parts.’’