VFF alarmed extra water take still on the table

By Geoff Adams

A further water grab is still on the table, following a new report on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, the VFF has pointed out.

The farmer body has expressed disappointment that the 450 Gl of upwater was not rejected by the report into economic impacts on rural communities.

The 450 Gl is on top of the agreed 2750 Gl for the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The VFF rejects this volume as it is not considered achievable without causing significant socio-economic impacts on basin communities.

The draft report by an independent panel recommends slowing down the transferring of the 450 Gl, but not abandoning it.

VFF Water Council chair Richard Anderson said there was a community expectation this report would highlight the need to abandon the 450 Gl recovery all together.

The VFF believes the 450 Gl should be scrapped.

“We've always argued that the 450 Gl would be undeliverable anyway,” Mr Anderson said.

He said the report mentioned the need for compliance but does not shine a strong enough light on the northern basin.

The Productivity Commission found in 2018 that Queensland only monitors 30 per cent of its surface water take and 28 per cent of its groundwater take (page 308).

“In Victoria all irrigation diversions are metered, largely through telemetry,” Mr Anderson pointed out.

“The management and execution of the basin plan must focus on the basic building blocks such as accurate metering.

“You cannot manage what you cannot measure and it's high time the northern basin smartens up its act.”

The VFF has argued for the need for an end date for the basin plan.

Mr Anderson said the way the Water Act and Basin Plan Act were written, at the conclusion of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan Review in 2026, a new basin plan and further water recovery could start again.

“This was never John Howard's intention; he described this as a ‘once-off’ exercise and we need to ensure this is honoured.

“Rural communities need certainty and do not want to have the prospect of another 10 years of water reform with ‘basin plan two’ on the horizon.”

The Independent Assessment of Social and Economic Conditions in the Murray-Darling Basin, led by Robbie Sefton, released its draft report on Monday, March 16.

The panel is seeking public submissions on the draft report by April 20.