THE “rusted-on” support for the federal Coalition government is gone and its parliamentarians should fear the election, says Southern Riverina Irrigators (SRI) chairman Chris Brooks.
“We go to the politicians and we get nothing, and that’s really upsetting farmers,” he said on the eve of a major protest in Melbourne while state water ministers meet to discuss the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
SRI and Murray Valley Private Diverters (MVPD), dependent on water from the Murray River, banded together on Thursday to issue a statement that was simple: “Pause the Basin Plan.”
Mr Brooks and MVPD spokesman John Lolicato said there was no other option than to employ adaptive management and pause the Plan, review it and find new solutions.
“It is now clear from implementation to date that delivery of fresh water to the end of the system is creating negative environmental, social and economic impacts upstream, and that freshwater alone will not fix the problems of the Corryong and Lower Lakes,” Thursday’s statement said.
“The plan is flawed and causing devastating effects on our communities,” said Mr Brooks.
“Let’s take a breather so we can get it right for our nation’s future, rather than barging ahead and wasting $13 billion of taxpayers’ money,” he said.
The failings of the Basin Plan are clearly highlighted by the fact that food producers in the Murray Valley remain on zero allocation.
Mr Lolicato said: “After six years of continuing implementation of the Basin Plan our water reform fatigued communities are past breaking point.
“To their credit they have attended thousands of meetings, written thousands of submissions and sent hundreds of delegations to meet with politicians and government agencies, in an attempt to get issues addressed and have ownership of the Basin Plan,” he said.
“Our time has been wasted and the social fabric of our communities continues to be undermined by a bad plan that is driven by political goals and imperatives, and most concerning of all, a bureaucracy that will not listen to community concerns.
“These concerns have been backed up by numerous reports and studies that confirm this plan is devastating our social fabric and community confidence.
“Enough is enough,” said Mr Lolicato.
Mr Brooks said pausing the plan to review its impacts and reassess more appropriate actions would mean no further water acquisition which would:
- Give water reform fatigued communities some breathing space.
- Allow the MDBA and CEWO some time to prove the benefits which can be gained with what is already in their bucket (2,100GL) before they acquire any more productive water.
- Use the interim period to investigate alternate options to achieve objectives and confirm exactly what volumes of water can actually be delivered downstream and the associated management regimes required.
“The failings of the Basin Plan are clearly highlighted by the fact that food producers in the Murray Valley remain on zero allocation, despite the fact the Murray River has been run beyond capacity for several months,” Mr Brooks said.