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Basin States squander opportunity for meaningful progress on Plan implementation

19 December 2017

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is deeply disappointed at the outcome of today’s meeting of Murray Darling Basin Ministers in Albury, NSW.

The Ministerial Council failed to re-commit to working together to ensure the delivery of the Basin Plan in full and ‘squabbled’ over already agreed measures.

NFF President Fiona Simson said politicking by the Basin States was now putting the fortunes of farmers, Basin communities and the environment in jeopardy.

“In particular, reckless actions by the South Australia to withdraw support for the package of environmental works — agreed upon in June — which would leave 605 gigalitres in the Southern basin for communities and industry, while improving environmental outcomes, beggar’s belief," Ms Simson said.

“New South Wales and Victoria’s refusal to commit to delivering a further promised 450GL of water for environmental flows is also unhelpful – although given South Australia’s behaviour, not unforeseen.”

The NFF with the National Irrigators Council, wrote to the then Minister for Water Resources Barnaby Joyce and other Basin Ministers imploring the Council to get on with the job of implementing the Plan.

“The Basin Plan is an historic compromise. It is not perfect,” Ms Simson said.

“It has had negative impacts on many communities and industries that rely on water for irrigation to underpin production.

“But, the Plan has the bipartisan consensus of each jurisdiction and the Commonwealth Parliament.

“This consensus is essential to providing water users and communities with certainty for the future,” Ms Simson said.

Today’s meeting was the first since allegations of non-compliance were raised by ABC’s Four Corners program in July. Ministers had a number of key decisions to make and commitments where the consensus of all jurisdictions was required.

The Ministers did agree to adopt a standardised method of reporting compliance with the view to publishing a standardised set of compliance data to ensure consistency and adherence with the Plan across the Basin.

Despite this outcome, Ms Simson said the potential for real progress on the Plan’s implementation was lost.

“What we have seen today is Basin States throw their toys from the cot and retreat back to their own corners,” Ms Simson said.

“It is highly disappointing that our elected representatives, charged with the responsibility of implementing the Plan, see fit to squander opportunities like today's Ministerial Council meeting.

"In doing so, they particularly hurt the agricultural and irrigation sectors who have so far worn the greatest costs of the Plan’s implementation.”

Ms Simson said she looked forward to briefing the newly-appointed Minster for Agriculture Water Resources David Litteproud on NFF's Basin policy position and priorities.

Media Enquiries: Laureta Wallace
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