Mixed reactions after MinCo meeting

By Rodney Woods

There have been mixed reactions to the Murray-Darling Basin states Ministerial Council meeting on December 17.

VFF Water Council chairman Richard Anderson said Victorian farmers would be pleased to see the states agreeing to address deliverability issues in the Lower Murray.

“Over the last 18 months the VFF has expressed great concerns towards deliverability risks in the Mallee due to increased developments placing pressure on existing irrigators,” Mr Anderson said.

“This prompted Minister (Lisa) Neville in July to call in all new licences in the Mallee for Victoria but the other Mallee states did not agree to curb development.”

NSW Farmers Association welcomed the agreement made to reassess the deliverability of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Measures projects.

Association president James Jackson said this would ensure the projects provide the greatest environmental outcomes possible and are supported by local communities.

“All good plans should include flexibility and be adaptable to new information and conditions,” Mr Jackson said.

“The projects in their current form lack detail and support from local communities.

“The reassessment of the deliverability of the projects and their contribution to the 605 Gl will ensure that the projects will achieve the greatest environmental outcomes possible without having to recover water from farmers.”

Despite the positivity, everyone was not so complimentary.

John Lolicato, representing organisers of the recent Convoy to Canberra, said the group welcomed the clear admissions of failing government policy but called the meeting a lost opportunity.

“This was also a massive lost opportunity to review the Murray-Darling Basin agreement, which is no longer fit for purpose, as it was written in 1915 at a time where monthly targets were necessary and predicated on paddle steamers as they were the building blocks for river communities,” Mr Lolicato said.

Victorian Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan said Ms Neville's efforts didn't go far enough.

“Communities have accepted that these constraints are immovable,” Ms Ryan said.

“It's time the minister did too.

“In failing to acknowledge that the constraints management strategy cannot be implemented, the Andrews Government — along with the Commonwealth and other basin states — has conceded it’s still working on the false assumption huge volumes of environmental water can be pushed down the river.

“It's time to throw the constraints management strategy in the bin and rethink how much water the environment can realistically deliver.”

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said the Convoy to Canberra had a major impact on policy announcements and praised Ms Neville's efforts.

“I believe that Convoy to Canberra really stirred up a lot of activity in the space and while not everyone might get what they want out of that, there's no doubt that the whole issue of water management in the southern basin ... has really been brought to the fore,” Ms Sheed said.

“I think our communities are being heard and, certainly in Victoria, I'd have to say we're very lucky to have a minister who has been listening to our communities and taking on board a lot of these serious issues.”