NSW Famers has labelled the federal government’s Productivity Commission’s Murray Darling Basin Plan Implementation Review a “devastating sledgehammer to complete the Basin Plan”.
The interim review, handed down on October 30 with the final report to be submitted to the federal government on December 19, supports further water buybacks but downplays the impact on farm production, food security, and economic performance. NSW Farmers Water Taskforce Chair Richard Bootle says water buybacks would hurt farmers and basin communities.
“Basin communities have sent a clear message to the federal government they oppose buybacks and this rewrite of the Basin Plan, because they are living through the negative impacts,” he said.
“While this review has been welcomed by the usual conga line of campaigners whose bloody-minded pursuit of buybacks is both short-sighted and arrogant, the people on the ground are vehemently opposed. There are far better options to deliver the Basin Plan than buybacks, and we want the federal government to use those tools instead.”
NSW Farmers states although the review acknowledged the Basin Plan was required to give critical water needs the highest priority, it only examined drinking water and ignored food production. The group also says the Basin Plan absolves the federal government of any responsibility to do more to meet those needs.
The review though did find basin governments would need to assist communities to transition to a future with less available water, while also finding existing funding was “not sufficient”, where Mr Bootle says more water could instead be secured by investing in projects that would remove the need for costly buybacks.
“When the Basin Plan was first put in place, the idea was that they would consider social, economic, and environmental impacts, but we’ve seen the first two ignored,” Mr Bootle said.
“To date, the Basin Plan has resulted in economic hardship for communities, a reduction in agricultural production, and man-made droughts and floods for ‘environmental outcomes’.
“The federal government needs to stop and listen to farmers before going down the path of more buyback’s given Australia is drying out by the day.”
The Productivity Commission is currently seeking feedback on the interim report by Monday, November 20. To make a submission, visit https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/current/basin-plan-2023#draft.