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Water Ministers unite in commitment to further scrutiny of 'upwater' impacts

17 December 2018

National Farmers' Federation (NFF) Water Taskforce Chair Les Gordon said the decision of the meeting of the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MinCo) on Friday was measured and balanced.

"There is nothing in these measures that will demand review of environmental allocations, the 450GL will be robustly assessed and made available once that assessment is final, just as the plan envisaged," Mr Gordon said.

“In securing the required additional 450 gigalitres of ‘upwater’ measures, the NFF has long urged Basin Governments to consider and exhaust all other methods before considering reaching into the consumptive pool.

“Drawing on the consumptive pool only serves to add further pressure and uncertainty on farmers and Basin communities."

In making the decision, Water Ministers considered the findings of an EY report (published earlier this year) and the recent Productivity Commission draft report.

Both reports recommended that explicit consideration must be given to potential socio-economic impacts of upwater measures and that and innovative or novel approaches that provide alternatives to drawing from the consumptive pool.

The communique from the MinCo meeting confirmed that Ministers would embed the consideration of social-economic impacts in all upwater program designs.

Ministers also agreed to review the timelines for Water Resource Plans, supply measures and efficiency measures.

Noting, the Productivity Commission draft report noted ‘there is a degree of dissatisfaction and mistrust in parts of the community …. arising from a lack of transparency and consultation’.

The NFF restates the urgency of comprehensive consultation, individually, locally and regionally on all proposals especially constraint and efficiency measures to restore broken community confidence.

"Measures announced from the MinCo indicate that there is a welcome and serious commitment to meet these priorities, we look forward to them being implemented.

“The Murray Darling Basin Plan is the result of a monumental compromise, where no party got all they wanted, nor did they concede everything.

“This spirit of comprise must continue for the plan to survive. On Friday, we saw just that – State Ministers compromising in the interests of ensuring the fundamentals of the Plan remain intact and delivering as intended," Mr Gordon said.

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