Protestors hopes dashed by report

Can the Plan organisers say Royal Commission now only way forward

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The Keelty review into water sharing in the Southern Basin was the result of the 'Can the Plan' rally in December. Rally organiser Chris Brooks was optimistic Mr Keelty would justify their concerns but was left disappointed when the report was released.

The Keelty review into water sharing in the Southern Basin was the result of the 'Can the Plan' rally in December. Rally organiser Chris Brooks was optimistic Mr Keelty would justify their concerns but was left disappointed when the report was released.

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Keelty report finds 50GL a year was not accounted for by MDBA.

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In January speaking to a packed audience at a consultation at the Deniliquin RSL, Interim Inspector General of the Murray Darling Basin, Mick Keelty asked southern irrigators to trust him as their voice for change.

However, when his report into water sharing in the Southern Basin was released on Friday, it was met with disappointment from irrigator groups.

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The report finding climate not mismanagement was the main cause of reduced inflows to the Southern Basin.

Mr Keelty's inquiry was commissioned by former federal water minister, David Littleproud, after 'Can the Plan' protesters rallied outside parliament house in December.

Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman and 'Can the Plan' organiser, Chris Brooks had previously been optimistic that Mr Keelty would justify their allegations.

"He had given us an undertaking to review the issues we alleged were reducing water reliability in the southern basin, the volume of take on the Northern Rivers, the conveyance losses, dilution flows," Mr Brooks said.

"My message to our members (following the release of the report) was it is an absolute waste of time being involved in any more consultations, submissions or reviews with anyone from federal or state government.

"The only way we are going to resolve this unfair water distribution and get on top of all of this corruption and distortion is through a royal commission or by class actions."

Speaking to The Land Mr Keelty said the report was a genuine and truthful attempt to state the facts.

"The disappointment is that people were led to believe that there might have been some wrongdoing either on the part of governments or agencies," Mr Keelty said.

"The reality is that when we examined it closely the water availability is very much accounted for."

Report finds 350GL not accounted for by MDBA

However, Mr Keelty said that they had discovered that through a close examination of Murray Darling Basin Authority calculations, around 50 gigalitres of water a year for the last seven years had not been account for.

"That's a total of 350GL, it's not a lot of water but it's something we wouldn't have known about had the inquiry not taken place," he said.

The report also highlighted that there needed to be more transparency on how South Australia's yearly allocation is calculated.

"Irrigators all presumed that 1850GL goes to South Australia no matter what, year in year out, when actually there's a river operations group that calculates how much water flows to South Australia every year," Mr Keelty said.

Therefore, he said while the report did not come up with a quantity of water for irrigators it did come up with a number of strategies to greater account the MDBA.

"At the heart of the report, apart from the reduced inflows, is that the Murray Darling Basin is a very solid agreement, it is the operationalisation of the agreement by the various states that is making the difference in what irrigators are feeling," Mr Keelty said.

Keelty says NSW not as conservative as Vic, SA 

He said while Victoria allocates high reliability water conservatively, high security licence holders in NSW are given almost 100 per cent allocation every year.

"That's what's led to zero water allocation (general security) year on year to a number of farmers in the Deniliquin region," Mr Keelty said.

Mr Brooks argued that although the way NSW ran their water was "an absolute disgrace," Mr Keelty couldn't say their issues were all state based.

"If they were just NSW issues, why was it that there were hundreds of people ranting and raving in front of him, in full emotion, in places like Shepparton and Swan Hill?," Mr Brooks said.

Mr Brooks said one positive that had come out of the inquiry, was the thirteen different water groups from across the southern basin had begun working together.

"From Albury to Sunraysia, Upper Goulburn right through to Murrumbidgee, we have become united, representing 8000 farmers," Mr Brooks said.

"We have to get bigger and better unity to stand up to this distortion."

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