Water

Convoy organiser says time is running out to save the basin

By Rodney Woods

The ‘doomsday clock’ for Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin is ticking, and it’s one minute to midnight.

This is the prediction of Convoy to Canberra organiser Jan Beer, from Yea, who says she and many others are trying desperately to alert politicians and highlight the need for immediate action.

Mrs Beer said she, and her fellow convoy organisers, planned to "up the ante" on behalf of irrigators in 2020.

“The Murray-Darling Basin covers one million square kilometres, is home to 2.6 million people and is undeniably Australia’s major food bowl, producing 40 per cent of our nation’s food supply,” she said.

“Also, more than four million people rely on its rivers and catchments for water supply for families, communities and industry.”

But like so many people who "live and breathe" this food bowl, Mrs Beer said the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was “a dog’s breakfast” that had done immense harm to the nation’s core productive irrigated farm enterprises, regional communities and reliant businesses.

“Yet we have politicians who refuse to admit they’ve got it wrong,” she said.

“Irrigation is the safeguard in case of drought, and is critical to our nation’s food security.

“We have become world leaders in water efficiency with our rice industry, as one example, producing more ‘crop per drop’ than anywhere else in the world.

“Yet the basin plan has pulled the rug from under our farmers’ feet, removing within a very short time frame 30 per cent of their most important resource and lifeblood, that being water.

“With the domino effect of drought and fires on top of this, food production is in serious decline and 2021-22 is looming as the time when the doomsday clock hits midnight if action is not immediately taken by governments, or we receive flooding rains in the meantime.

“Somehow, we must get governments to understand that the plan is a disaster and we cannot keep mismanaging and wasting our precious water like we’ve seen happen since the last flood in 2016.”

Mrs Beer called on the Federal Government to immediately quarantine the remaining environmental water, to provide water for critical human needs and “those non-human consumption requirements that a failure to meet would cause prohibitively high social, economic or national security costs (Water Act 2007, Section 86A [2] [b])".

“The basin plan has proved to be totally inadequate at balancing human and environmental needs, to the detriment of our agricultural industries, basin communities and our nation’s food security,” she said.

“It is time to stop the clock and fix it.”