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More time must equal more opportunity to get the Basin Plan right

3 August 2011

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has welcomed the news that the draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan will not be released until mid-October.

“The NFF has said from day one that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) needs to achieve balance in the Basin Plan,” NFF President Jock Laurie said.

“The news that the release of the draft will be pushed back gives the MDBA another two months to ensure they don’t just get the Basin Plan done, but critically, get it right.

“Through this entire process, the NFF has been calling for a balanced approach: one in which the needs of the farmers and affected communities are balanced with the needs of the environment and the economy.

“The draft Plan must weigh equally the needs of the environment, economy and communities.

“The reaction from the community during the disastrous release of the Guide to the Plan said it all – farmers and rural communities are passionate about their future and have demanded engagement and consultation in what is likely to be the biggest public policy decision affecting local farmers and communities.

“We acknowledge the work that the MDBA Chair Craig Knowles has done in recognising the importance of the community in this decision and the need for a balanced outcome. It is vital that the Draft Basin Plan reflects this – and this news ensures the MDBA has more time to achieve this.

“Concerns have been raised around the length of the consultation period and the fact that it occurs during summer, one of the busiest periods for farmers and irrigators. We await the Minister’s and the MDBA’s clarification around this.

“However, the advantage of this delay is that it allows the MDBA greater time to consult with the States, something the NFF believes is intrinsically important.

“A critical element of the Plan is the Commonwealth’s Water for the Future allocation for infrastructure, strategic purchases and investment in environmental works and measures. The current impasse on infrastructure needs to be solved in order for communities to see where and how any impacts may be offset by other recovery options. The States must be engaged in the delivery of this.

“Ultimately, more time must equal more opportunity for the MDBA to get the balance right. If they don’t, then family farms, rural communities and one third of Australia’s food supply will be at significant risk,” Mr Laurie said.

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