Missed opportunity for Northern communities
On Wednesday, 14th February 2018 the Federal Senate rejected an amendment to the Murray Darling Basin Plan which will see the northern recovery target return to 390 gigalitres, rather than the revised 320 gigalitres.
Zara Lowien, Executive Officer from the Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association explained how the change will impact the Gwydir, like other northern regions in two key areas.
“With a return to the original target, means the Commonwealth Government could again, enter the water market to purchase water despite knowing how this will impact jobs, people and the local economy” she said
“The Basin Plan could see another 13,000-27,000 megalitres of entitlement from Gwydir irrigators recovered for the environment, on top of the 125,000 megalitres already purchased to-date” she said
“We know that removing water from irrigation dependant communities, impacts the social and economic base of those communities” she said
“The Murray Darling Basin Authority estimated the impact from the full recovery of the Basin Plan would be nearly 200 jobs directly due to water recovery” she said
“We’ve been seeing the impact of losing these jobs and people from our region since water recovery began in 2008, with less businesses and services” she said
In addition to further water recovery, the opportunity to leverage Commonwealth funding for non-flow environmental projects, known as the toolkit measures, has also been lost.
“We are perplexed that the opportunity to invest in real projects to deliver improved environmental outcomes was rejected” she said
“With the amendment rejected, it’s unlikely that the Commonwealth Government will invest in projects that address cold water pollution, fish passage or constraints in the lower Gwydir, all of which aim to achieve better environmental outcomes” she said
“Our community has missed a real opportunity to limit further impacts of water recovery and improve environmental outcomes” she said
“We’re clearly disappointed at how the amendment and what it represented, has been received by some of the major political parties and cross benchers” she said
“We’re looking to the Commonwealth and NSW Government to negotiate a speedy resolution that puts people, communities and the environment back as the priority” she said.
For more information on water recovery and the Basin Plan in the Gwydir Valley, see our web page Environmental Water and Management.