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Farmers welcome next-stage assessment of State project proposals to deliver Southern Basin recovery offsets

4 October 2017

The National Farmers' Federation Vice President Les Gordon has welcomed the start of detailed consultation on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s estimates for adjusting the Basin Plan water recovery target for the Southern Basin.

"In 2012, under the leadership of then Water Minister, Tony Burke, Basin Governments and the Commonwealth Parliament agreed to the Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) Adjustment Mechanism.

"This mechanism enables the Basin Plan water recovery target to be reduced by up to 650 gigalitres where equivalent environmental outcomes can be achieved with less water – the so called 'down water'," Mr Gordon said.

"While the MDBA’s draft analysis indicates State Governments haven't come up with the solutions to deliver the full potential of the maximum offset that is possible, the result means that the water recovery required to implement the Basin Plan is complete, and indeed in some areas, over recovery has occurred."

State Governments will ultimately be responsible for delivering these projects with a completion date set for 2024. All Basin Ministers have committed to detailed consultation in the design and implementation of the projects.

"We know many of the projects are not straightforward and will require detailed and meaningful consultation with irrigators, riparian landholders and communities.

"Governments need to build stakeholder confidence in these projects, and ensure those that will be affected by their implementation will have their needs met," Mr Gordon said.

While the news that water recovery task is complete will come as a relief for communities that have been negatively affected by water recovery activities, Mr Gordon said it must be remembered that Basin Governments were still considering the plan settings to recover an additional 450GL - the so called up-water provisions.

"The NFF's view on the up water has always been clear: Governments should avoid a 'no-regrets' approach to this recovery, and ensure that a genuine and robust methodology is in place that gives everyone confidence that the neutral or improved social and economic outcomes test of the plan can be met, and that the potential impacts of higher flows can be fairly managed."

Ministerial Council-commissioned independent experts, Ernst & Young are in the throes of examining how the neutral or improved test might be met, with their report due by the end of the year.

"With our members, the NFF will be consulting with State Governments on the detail of the MDBA's analysis of their down-water projects.
"It is of paramount importance that all stakeholders have confidence in the MDBA's analysis," Mr Gordon said.

Media Enquiries: Ms Laureta Wallace
P 0408 448 250 E

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