Shepparton council votes on official basin plan stance

By Rodney Woods

Despite being a long-time member of two Murray-Darling Basin lobby groups, Greater Shepparton City Council only voted on an official stance towards the controversial Murray-Darling Basin Plan at last month's council meeting.

The councillors voted unopposed on April 21 to adopt an official position, which included:

• Supporting the plan in provision of 2750 Gl of environmental water to the river systems within the Murray-Darling Basin, provided that the recovery of 605 Gl through the Sustainable Diversion Limit offset program is achieved and that further buybacks are not necessary.

• Not supporting buybacks to recover the proposed 450 Gl of water from irrigation entitlements within the southern basin.

• That the passage of water intended for irrigation use downstream be minimised to flows that do not cause environmental harm to river environs and in particular the Barmah Choke on the Murray River and the banks of the heritage-listed Goulburn River downstream of Eildon Weir.

• On-farm efficiency programs to recover the proposed 450 Gl should be subject to an independent socio-economic analysis that proves that such transfers do not cause negative socio-economic issues in regions where water is being recovered, or from other regions in the southern basin that consequently have access to less water as a result. 

Councillor Dennis Patterson said despite a lack of an official stance, the Shepparton council always had farmers' backs.

"Look, we hadn’t taken an official stance but we're always backing our farmers," he said.

"We've spent a lot of time and money on the GMID Leadership Group.

"People know that council knows that it's out of whack and we're trying to fix it from different directions."

Not only is the council a member of the GMID Leadership Group, Cr Patterson is also the councillor representative to the Murray Darling Association and is chair of Region 2 of that association.

"To assist in raising these issues at the annual general meeting of the MDA, it is imperative that council adopt a position toward the MDBP that can be shared with other member
councils to elicit support and allow council to advocate on behalf of the region," the meeting agenda read.

"The AGM for the Murray Darling Association is currently going to be held in Shepparton this year in early November," Mr Patterson said.

"There will be approximately 300 delegates from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT and hopefully we can get some movement on their position, which is then nationally accepted.

"Hopefully we can get some action on this 450 (Gl) so the whole Murray Darling Association will have the same attitude towards it as we do,'' he said.

"That is the plan."