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Farmers seek assurance on Basin Inspector General role & outline expectations for water ministers meeting

1 August 2019

The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) says a proposal today by Water Minister David Littleproud to appoint an Inspector General for the Murray Darling Basin must lead to improved outcomes, confidence and accountability.

"Additional confidence in the delivery of the plan is crucial for communities challenged by the implementation of the Plan and the corresponding impacts of drought," NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar said.

"The NFF will seek an assurance from the Minister, that the role of Inspector General is complementary to that of the Murray Darling Basin Authority and is of value to farmers, communities and the environment."

The Minister's announcement comes ahead of a meeting of the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council on Sunday.

Mr Mahar said the meeting would be closely watched by farmers who were seeking material action on crucial issues.

"Any delays in resolving key challenges will only compound uncertainty and frustration, and compress already tight time frames.

"The meeting needs to: respond to the Productivity Commission five-year review of the Plan; take action on improving water deliverability; progress Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Measures; and reinforce their commitment to basin communities.

"The Productivity Commission's five-year review of the Plan is a critical report that needs an agreed implementation plan, and a multi-jurisdictional commitment to deliver.

"The report was the outcome from the only formal review process under the Plan which conducted comprehensive multi-stakeholder consultations."

The NFF maintains that this report provides the best pathway to guide implementation of the Plan and urges Ministers to focus on addressing its recommendations.

"Severe drought has tested the capacity of the Plan to deliver water for both the environment and farmers.

"Water losses this summer have only reinforced the challenge to deliver water, particularly below the Barmah Choke," Mr Mahar said.

"Last December's Ministerial Council meeting identified the urgency of addressing water deliverability issues and agreed to develop medium and long terms solution.

Mr Mahar said the NFF sought tangible outcomes from this commitment and noted water use shifting downstream seemed to be exacerbating the issue.

"The NFF also remains concerned about the slow implementation on the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Measures. Few are meaningfully underway.

"The 'supply' projects will play a significant role in achieving environmental outcomes, particularly the constraints measures, and reminds Ministers that irrigators will be most impacted by the lack of progress if there are gaps in recovery."

"With the federal election behind us, Basin State water ministers have two years of political stability to drive reform for the Murray-Darling Basin. It is important not to squander this opportunity," Mr Mahar said.

"This Sunday's meeting will be critical to delivering outcomes for basin communities and future stability of the Basin."

Media Enquiries: Laureta Wallace
0408 448 250

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