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Build infrastructure, create balance in the Basin Plan

16 April 2012

On the day the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has made its submission to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) on the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan, an independent economic report has found that the Authority’s modelling on the impacts of the Basin Plan is seriously flawed.

The report, undertaken by Independent Economics on behalf of a group of Murrumbidgee Valley stakeholders, found that the proposed Plan is likely to permanently reduce employment by 2,100 jobs and income by $200m in the South-West Murrumbidgee area alone.

NFF President Jock Laurie says the report directly challenges the Authority’s findings of a “minimal” impact on regional communities.

“Make no mistake, the proposed Basin Plan is going to hurt regional communities; and this report is evidence of that,” Mr Laurie said.

“We’ve said time and time again that the proposed Plan must be balanced, and that the needs of our towns, our economies and our agricultural communities must be given equal footing with the needs of the environment.

“Now is the time for the MDBA and the Australian Government to listen to our concerns, and to take our suggested solutions for water-savings – like a greater focus on infrastructure and increased R&D – seriously,” Mr Laurie said.

The Independent Economics Report, funded by the Australian Government’s Strengthening Riverina Irrigation Communities grant, found that water buybacks result in significant negative impacts on the agriculture sector with negative flow-on impacts to other sectors in regional economies. On the other hand, the report found that water recovered through infrastructure investment has negligible impact on irrigation activity and may provide an opportunity for positive benefits by supporting local businesses within the regions.

“An infrastructure-based approach to the Basin Plan would fundamentally change its negative impacts on our communities,” Mr Laurie said.

“We are seeking a guarantee from the Government to recover water through infrastructure and efficiency investment, environmental works and measures, local community projects and river operations – and to enhance agriculture’s economic profile through a greater investment in R&D. This is not a new message, and it’s time the Government listened.

“This work should accelerate immediately. Only $3.4 billion of the $5.8 billion infrastructure fund has been allocated to infrastructure in the Basin and a much smaller amount has actually been spent. And increased R&D funding to maintain our economic capacity in the affected regions should be rolled out at the same time.

“Today, we call on the Government to show its commitment to the future of the Basin communities by adopting a sensible, strategic and solutions-focused approach to the Murray-Darling Basin by working with – rather than fighting against – an industry that has led the way in Australia’s water reform efforts over the last 20 years: agriculture,” Mr Laurie said.

The NFF’s submission to the MDBA on the proposed Basin Plan can be accessed here.

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