The NSW Coalition might not have a squeaky clean profile on water, especially after the emergence of water theft allegations, which are now the subject of multiple inquiries, but the water reduction targets which it, and other states had agreed to, had set the dial in the right direction.
These reduction measures were expected to save as many as 200 jobs in regional NSW while still delivering water to the environment, and were rubber stamped by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
But politics – or more specifically, The Greens’ Senator Sarah Hanson-Young – has got in the way.
Questions do remain over the effectiveness of the plan for those in the Lower Darling, but overall, the vote by the senate is a massive step backwards and does put the whole plan at risk of imploding.
Overall, the water recovery targets that had been agreed upon were a healthy compromise.
In 2012, when then Water Minister, Labor’s Tony Burke, got the states to sign onto the “final version” of the plan, he made the point that no one stakeholder would get everything they wanted.
That was the whole point, it was a compromise, even if he did squeeze in a sneaky 450GL bonus for South Australia to sign the dotted line.
Yet, here is Labor joining the Greens’ bandwagon of our way or the highway type politics, which has now begun the Basin Plan on a dangerous slope towards implosion.
More buybacks, which are now shaping up as a real possibility since last week’s senate vote, could see SA’s farmers kissing 40GL of that bonus 450GL (which had a deadline of 2024) goodbye.
So much for the triple bottom line. Something the MDBA has been aiming for, and did have in its sights, but not if the Greens continue to call the shots.
They still have another disallowance motion up their sleeve for the Southern Basin, which will be introduced to the Senate in May. That one quite possibly could be the nail in the coffin for the plan, if Labor doesn’t come to its senses.
The Basin Plan was created with the ability to be “tweaked”, or adjusted as needed over time, but not to take a blow like this.
The Greens have been trying for years to trash this plan. If they succeed, it will be a loss not just for irrigation communities, but also for the environment.