Macquarie River Food and Fibre (MRFF) has expressed its disappointment in the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) final recommendations from the Northern Basin Review, saying the proposed target still disregards the region’s ‘heavy lifting’ of water recovery to date.
MRFF Chairman Michael Egan said MDBA’s successive rounds of water reform have reduced the amount of water available for productive agriculture as well as the local community.
“Buybacks haven’t just impacted irrigators, they have been a social and economic disaster across the region. We’ve lost the productive capacity that fuels our community spirit and our prosperity,” Mr Egan said.
“The MDBA’s own analysis has shown that the socio-economic impacts of removing water from agricultural production have been significant in terms of job losses, but our group sees their estimate as too conservative.
“Those of us who live and work here know that half the story isn’t being told because lost jobs mean we lose families, we lose businesses, our schools and daycares are impacted, and everyone who is left feels that hit.”
The MDBA has made its recommendations from the Northern Basin Review to the Ministerial Council members, recommending a reduction of the Northern Basin recovery from 390 Gl to 320 Gl, with the Northern Basin still required to contribute 41 Gl to the shared recovery, on top of the 279 Gl already recovered.
In effect, this means that the Macquarie Valley is still responsible for 55 Gl in local recovery and 16 Gl in shared recovery.
So far, 83 Gl of water has been recovered from the Macquarie Valley, above and beyond the legislated target of 65 Gl, and dramatically higher than the 20 Gl originally proposed in 2010.
Mr Egan argues the Macquarie Valley’s contribution of 83 Gl is more than enough, urging decision-makers, such as the Ministerial Council, to restore balance to the debate.
“The amount of water taken from production has tipped the scales away from caring for our communities in the Macquarie Valley,” he said.
“Simply sending more water down the Macquarie Marshes is not a long-term solution to achieving environmental outcomes while ensuring the longevity of our region.
“Water recovery is only one option. Research has found that measures such as regularly trading environmental water back into production; investing in feral animal control; and mitigating cold water pollution, can maximise environmental outcomes from the water already recovered.
“These recommendations are now in the hands of the Ministerial Council, and we would urge them to consider the damage done, and the water we have already contributed, and put a halt to further recovery in the Northern Basin.
“Our targets have been exceeded – it’s time for the water recovery to stop.”