Upper Goulburn River Catchment Association spokeswoman Jan Beer, Yea, has joined with Deniliquin, New South Wales, lobby group, Speak Up, to implore Federal and State water ministers to heed what they say are the plan’s flaws.
“There is mounting evidence that the modelling under which the plan was developed was inadequate, and there is a distinct lack of transparent monitoring and evaluation of ecological outcomes,” Ms Beer said.
“These are consistent findings with reports from the CSIRO and various independent organisations, many of which have been commissioned by governments.
“It is surely time to pause the plan so we can identify the shortcomings and work towards effective solutions.”
She said there should be an immediate start to accurate river monitoring and operating systems across all unregulated and regulated reaches.
These should be in place for four to five years before a reassessment of modelling assumptions.
To allow full optimisation of river systems and progressive demonstration of ecological flow targets, the deadline for plan implementation should be extended from 2024 to 2030.
Ms Beer has also suggested independent audit and assessment of all Sustainable Diverson Limit(SDL) projects, assessment of complementary measures before further water is acquired, and reassessment of constraints strategies.
The need for the proposed 450GL upwater should also be reassessed, but not until the system is fully operational.
“These are common-sense measures that can help us achieve a Basin Plan that future generations will look back on with pride, rather than one that will be put in the same category as pink batts and school halls, which is where it is heading,” Ms Beer said.
Mrs Scoullar said the CSIRO and other independent scientific reports should raise alarm bells with all Water ministers.
“All the reports being released are telling us a similar story, that the modelling and monitoring of the Basin Plan are not at a level you would expect when there is $13 billion of taxpayers’ money involved,” Ms Scoullar said.
“Governments keep telling us the plan must be implemented ‘in full and on time’.
“That’s like saying you will continue with construction of a 20 storey building after being told the foundations are inadequate.”
She said the South Australian call for a Royal Commission sounded like a sensible idea.
“But the commission must look at all aspect of the plan, not just a few specific areas,” Mrs Scoullar said.
“It has to consider how we can best implement a Basin Plan that achieves environmental objectives, while at the same time protecting rural communities,” Mrs Scoullar said.