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Social and economic science just as important for MDBP

24 May 2011

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling for a balanced approach to the development of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, following the decision by scientists involved in the process to withdraw on the basis of environmental science alone.

NFF President Jock Laurie has today criticised the single-minded perspective of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists in considering only the health of the river, and not the health of regional communities, in their decision to withdraw from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA).

“A comprehensive approach is required: one in which the needs of the affected communities and the economy are balanced with the needs of the environment. What is missing from the comments made by the Wentworth Group is balance – the perspective that the needs of the environment outweigh the needs of the communities that rely on the Murray-Darling Basin for survival,” Mr Laurie said.

“Farmers and rural communities were not willing to accept what was on offer in the draft Guide to the Basin Plan, but we remained at the table. We’re not walking away from the process – we understand the need for an equitable outcome for all, be it the environment, the economy, farmers, regional communities and the river itself,” Mr Laurie said.

“The Wentworth Group is calling for an independent review of the proposed volume of water that will be returned to the river system, but this is premature. At this stage, no figures have been confirmed and those leaked are just speculative.

“This is simply political scaremongering: a heavy-handed tactic by the Wentworth Group to push their own political agenda. But in doing so, they have simply raised questions about their own independence. They have proven that they cannot be both an impartial provider of science and an advocacy group for the environment.

“Farmers have been actively involved in water reform for the past 15 years, and our views haven’t changed: balance is crucial. The MDBA must hold true to their statements that the social, economic and environmental factors will all be considered in the development of the Basin Plan. We await the MDBA draft Plan, and the Federal Government’s response, with interest,” Mr Laurie concluded.

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