Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley highlighted the need for more certainty for southern Murray-Darling Basin irrigators in a speech to Federal Parliament last week.
On Thursday, she told Parliament: ‘‘If an MDBA evaluation shows environmental needs are being met at current water recovery levels, then the 2750Gl (Sustainable Diversion Limit) should be adjusted down as soon as possible’’.
Ms Ley said the current Murray-Darling Basin Authority evaluation of social, economic and environmental outcomes would also identify if anything else needed to be done to achieve the Murray-Darling Basin Plan aims.
She said southern irrigators had called for a full review of the basin plan in the south following a similar northern review, which led to a 70Gl reduction of recovery.
‘‘But, the MDBA has no provision to review water recovery targets in the south. Socio-economic impacts are being addressed in a report card due to be released later this year,’’ she said.
‘‘Unlike the recent review of the northern basin, there is no scope to reduce the water recovery targets in the south, only an SDL adjustment.
‘‘If the basin plan’s environmental outcomes can be met using less environmental water then there must be an opportunity to adjust this SDL by more than five per cent.
‘‘I stand ready to advocate for legislative change to either alter this figure, if indeed we can achieve the outcomes with less water being removed, or express the amount as a single new target of, say, 2100Gl.’’
Ms Ley said the regions she represented had lost a lot.
‘‘Socio-economic indices are declining. Deniliquin’s population of under-45s has dropped by 20 per cent, indicating significant pressure on this community.
‘‘Yes, there is a big tranche of investment coming into the Murrumbidgee irrigation area ... but ongoing long-term access to water at a price that is affordable and sustainable has to underpin this development.
‘‘When I meet my farmers, they remind me: what would our regional economy look like if we had not lost so much of this permanent water?’’
She said her communities depended on getting it right.
‘‘Water is the lifeblood of my electorate and the reason so many of us live, work and raise our families in western NSW along the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers.
‘‘To quote Murrumbidgee Irrigation CEO Brett Jones: ‘We support ... a plan that focuses on achieving social, economic and environmental outcomes. Not a plan that focuses on numbers and water recovery at all costs’.’’
●More concerns about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan are voiced in Country News with today’s Cobram Courier.