“The gloves are off”…Chris Morshead (left) with his father Harry and children Harry and James. Picture: Brad Hunter Source: The Daily Telegraph
The Hume Dam on Murray River, providing lifeblood for irrigation farmers using Murray-Darling Basin. Source: Supplied
IRRIGATORS feel the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has not listened to farmers concerns when it released the revised plan of the water system this morning nearly two years after the first guide was announced.
The Authority’s initial figures in slashing 2750gl a year to be returned back to the environment remains the same, however, groundwater limits have been revised down from 4340gl to 3184gl.
In its revised plan the authority says the 2750gl was a “robust starting point” and was the right place to start to return enough environmental water to the Basin to achieve most environmental objectives.
But NSW Irrigators Council CEO Andrew Gregson said the authority had fundamentally failed to listen to the communities.
He also urged Federal Water Minister Tony Burke that he could change the plan to stop thousands of job losses, the closure of family farms and the upward pressure on food prices.
“That role has fallen to you. Their future lies in your hands. You’re all that stands between them and social economic Armageddon,” Mr Gregson said.
“Change the Basin Plan, Minister.”
Griffith farmer Chris Morshead said farmers had shown they were willing to work with the Authority to come up with a different figure but they had failed to listen.
“We have given them an opportunity to work with us and come to an agreement with a meaningful outcome they have disregarded that,” Mr Morshead said.
“It’s on now and the gloves are off.
“We are not interested, they should put it in the bin as the numbers are too high.”
Since the release of the draft in November, Authority chair Craig Knowles said it had continued to consider and test ideas and information to revise the draft plan that it was now presenting to Basin governments.
“We’re confident that the Plan is well balanced and presents a way forward on management of the Murray–Darling system,” Mr Knowles said.
“It is now over to the Basin ministers and the Federal water minister to lead the next stage of the Basin Plan process.”
This version of the plan, titled the ‘Proposed Basin Plan – A Revised Draft’, now enters its ministerial and parliamentary process.
It goes to all Basin water ministers for consideration for a maximum of six weeks, as stipulated by the Water Act. Following this, the Basin Plan will be given to the Federal Water Minister.
In the Authority’s statement today it said over the course of 20 weeks formal consultation it had met with stakeholders holding a total of 24 public meetings, 56 round table and technical meetings, 18 social and economic briefings, five regional briefings, 31 bilateral and a tailored Indigenous consultation process in more than 30 towns in the Basin.
By the end of the 20 weeks it had received nearly 12,000 submissions from individuals, organisations and governments across Australia, as well as some from overseas.
AS a result of the feedback it says it has made more than 300 further changes to the draft plan ranging from new provisions to the draft plan to redrafting it to improve clarity.