An open letter to parliament has called on state and federal politicians to put aside politics and focus on the sustainability outcomes for the Murray-Darling Basin.
The letter is signed by the National Farmers Federation, National Irrigators’ Council, Cotton Australia, Bega, Border Rivers Food and Fibre, NSW Irrigators’ Council, Murrumbidgee Private Irrigators, and Southern Riverina Irrigators representatives.
The letter in full:
“We, the people of the Murray-Darling Basin, the people who live in the Basin, work in the Basin and care for the Basin, call on our State and Federal politicians to put politics aside and focus on outcomes to give our river systems certainty for a sustainable future.
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan was written in a way to allow adaptive management, with enough flexibility to utilise new knowledge and to adjust operational management of our rivers to get better ecological outcomes from held environmental water while eventually providing certainty for the river and river communities.
This is what was written into the original Plan by Tony Burke in 2012 and it is what the Ministerial Council worked towards and finally agreed on in 2017.
While not everyone in the Basin likes the Plan, everyone has been working towards achieving it and delivering a balanced plan.
Today that hangs in the balance and we are concerned that we are on the verge of seeing the efforts of many thrown away compromising future environmental outcomes.
Both the Northern Basin Review (NBR) and the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) have been designed to require changes to system management to ensure environmental outcomes can be maximised.
In the north that means developing rules to ensure environmental water is protected through the system. Known as “toolkit” measures, the states have prepared a schedule to the Basin Plan Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to be implemented once the amendment is passed – but it is dependent on the amendment.
In the south the proposed adjustment projects include rules to enable environmental water to be used at multiple sites and consultation to address physical and regulatory impediments (constraints) to delivering higher connective flows.
With these changes, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder can effectively manage the water portfolio to maximise outcomes and make a real difference to improving the ecological sustainability of our rivers.
Without these changes, all the Basin Plan will achieve is a volume of water that cannot be effectively delivered. Billions of tax-payer dollars spent on a number.
Don’t let our faith be destroyed.
Don’t risk changes that support a sustainable Basin.
Don’t risk environmental outcomes.
Don’t disallow the NBR or the SDLAM.
Tony Mahar, National Farmers Federation
Steve Whan, National Irrigators’ Council
Michael Murray, Cotton Australia
Stuart Brown, Bega
Tim Napier, Border Rivers Food and Fibre
Mark McKenzie, NSW Irrigators’ Council
Iva Quarisa, Murrumbidgee Private Irrigators
Gabrielle Coupland, Southern Riverina Irrigators.”