INDEPENDENT Member for Shepparton District, Suzanna Sheed says the conclusions of a review of efficiency measures in the Murray Darling Basin are disappointing and are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the Basin Plan legislation.
Ms Sheed said the review – completed by consultancy firm Ernst & Young for the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council – was a lightweight report which raised more questions than it answered and did not provide the data required for Basin Ministers to make informed decisions.
“This report is little more than a surface-level assessment based on inaccurate data assumptions,” Ms Sheed said.
“Not only have the potential water savings been inflated, the cost of on-farm efficiency measures and the market price of high-reliability water shares have been considerably underestimated and no costing has been provided for any of the proposed regional development initiatives for communities.”
Ms Sheed said she was disappointed that the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District, which is broadly acknowledged as one of the hotspots of negative outcomes arising from the Basin Plan, was not considered in the report as being worthy of a case study with a targeted analysis of the impacts of future water removal.
“We have been telling anyone who will listen for some time now that the GMID is at a tipping point – it has been struggling under the strain of the Basin Plan and will not be able to withstand the removal of any further water,” Ms Sheed said.
“There has clearly been an overriding imperative in the preparation of this report to find the extra 450GL of water at all costs, effectively writing the GMID off as an unfortunate loser who could be placated with funding for non-related community and industry needs.
“That is not acceptable and represents a complete disregard for the Plan itself which states the additional 450GL of upwater cannot be recovered if there are negative social or economic impacts.”
Ms Sheed praised Victorian Water Minister, Lisa Neville for her condemnation of the report and said she hoped new leadership at the federal level would support a similarly accurate interpretation of the plan.
“The comments I have seen so far from the new federal Water Minister, Mr David Littleproud, have been ambiguous at best,” Ms Sheed said.
“He seems to be placing a bet each way. In one breath he says the 450GL must be delivered in full and in another says it won’t go ahead if there are any negative impacts.
“Given the Minister comes from a region that has also been adversely affected by the rollout of the Plan, I remain hopeful that he will appreciate the significance of agriculture both to the GMID and the broader economy and that playgrounds, sporting grounds and other small infrastructure spends will not be an acceptable remedy to regional communities that have been damaged by the Plan.”