Coulton’s Catch-up 5th December
The release of the final draft for the Murray Darling Basin Plan last week proved it was far from the credible plan Basin stakeholders had been expecting. This draft Plan doesn’t provide the basic information that is needed. Instead, it has placed a pall of uncertainty over Basin communities. Nowhere in the plan does it say where the water to be returned to the environment will come from or where it is going. It has failed to provide security for the 2.1 million Australians who live in the Basin and the more than 1 million who rely on it for water supplies.
The draft plan proposes a reduction in the productive use of water of 2,750GL. The cuts in the northern system amount to 390 GL and cuts in the southern system amount to 2,360 GL. Around 1,068GL has been recovered so far and an additional 1,682GL will be recovered over the next seven years. A detailed environmental watering plan will not be released with the draft. That means that a plan which will show how the water will be used could be up to three years away. The draft Basin Plan increases the uncertainty for communities as over 40 per cent of reductions are to be found from a mysterious ‘shared reduction amount’. There are no details about where this shared reduction amount will come from and by what means it will be recovered.
Many of us would agree that no domestic environmental issue requires more urgent attention than the human, environmental and economic crisis facing the Murray Darling Basin. It’s an environmental problem because low environmental flows impact on wildlife and wetlands. It’s an economic problem because the basin provides over one third of Australia’s food supply and much of our agricultural exports. It’s a human problem because the millions of Australians living in the catchment depend on its rivers for their livelihood and even for their drinking water. It is vital that we have a sustainable plan for the Basin that delivers on the environmental, economic and social factors; there must be a triple-bottom line delivery.
The most effective and practical way to improve the health of this mighty river system is to boost water efficiency measures. However, instead of investing in major on-farm water infrastructure projects in rural areas, the government has a skewed focus on simply buying water. We see money being diverted away from fixing our pipes, our channels and dams and into a buy-out of our farms, our rural communities and our food security. That’s bad for jobs, bad for the economies of local towns and bad for people living in a hungry world.
The release of the Draft plan has initiated a 20 week consultation process, and following this process the Final Murray Darling Basin Plan will be presented to the Minister in mid to late 2012. The MDBA has announced the following dates for consultation:
- St George, 7 December
- Murray-Bridge , 9 December
- Shepparton, 13 December
- Griffith, 15 December
- Deniliquin, 16 December
Consultations will continue after Australia Day and will include meetings in at least Goondiwindi, Mildura, Renmark, Swan Hill, Hay, Albury and Narrabri.
Public submissions are also being encouraged:
To fax a submission: (02) 6279 0558
To post a submission:
Proposed Basin Plan
Murray–Darling Basin Authority
GPO Box 3001
CANBERRA CITY ACT 2601