Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton has welcomed the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) proposed Basin Plan amendments and public consultation schedule resulting from its Northern Basin Review (NBR).
Mr Coulton has supported the NBR and the direction it has taken under Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce.
“The Northern Basin Review has been going on for a couple of years now,” Mr Coulton said.
“Under the direction of Minister Joyce, the NBR looked at a three tiered approach to the Basin Plan being environmental, social and economic effects – not just environmental affects as had been predominantly the case in the earlier years of the plan.
“The Northern Basin Advisory Committee has looked at other works and measures that can have environmental benefits to rivers without impacting on the productivity of water. There has also been more emphasis on modernisation and water saving technologies on farms which we have seen in the Macquarie with the modernisation schemes.”
Mr Coulton is pleased that the Government has funded 21 on-Farm irrigation infrastructure projects in the Parkes electorate to date.
“These projects worth a combined total of over $21 million have come about through programmes such as the NSW Sustaining the Basin Irrigated Farm Modernisation and On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Programmes,” Mr Coulton said.
“Works undertaken have included construction of new storage and channels, installation and conversions of irrigation systems as well as construction of 4 centre pivot irrigators and pump station to irrigate a 240 hectares, plus earthworks to reclaim the existing flood irrigation.”
In addition, under Round One of the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program (PIIOP) in NSW, several farms in the Trangie and Tenandra Irrigation Schemes received funding for on-farm infrastructure upgrades.
“Communities particularly in Trangie, Warren and Narromine have economies that are underpinned by the water that comes down the river so investments through programmes such as the PIIOP are critical for these areas,” Mr Coulton said.
One of the MDBA’s key recommendations under their proposed Basin Plan amendments is to reduce the water recovery target in the Northern Basin from 390 GL to 320 GL.
Because of this, the Coalition Government has announced it will establish a taskforce in the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to ensure further water recovery in the Northern Basin managed in a way that avoids putting further strain on Basin communities already doing it tough.
“I think this news will overall be welcomed in communities across the Parkes electorate,” Mr Coulton said.
“The NBR found that some of the assumptions made earlier in the Basin Plan about recoveries that were required have proven to be not completely accurate. For example in the Macquarie River, there will actually be water returned for productive use and it is believed this can be done without having any negative impact on the environment including water still getting through to the Macquarie marshes.
“The Gwydir Valley has indicated it has been over recovered but there is more water to be recovered in the Namoi and Border Rivers, but at a much lower level than was anticipated. It is expected that this water will be recovered through works and measures and there is no intention to pursue buy backs by the Government.”
The Northern Basin Programmes Taskforce will commence consultations with key community and industry stakeholders soon, and will develop a program of work to bridge the remaining water recovery ‘gap’ in the Northern Basin.
The taskforce will be run by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, with consultations to follow public information sessions being conducted by the Murray Darling Basin Authority aimed at explaining their proposed recommendations from the Northern Basin Review.
“If anyone in the Parkes electorate has any issues around these consultations and public information sessions they should contact my office,” Mr Coulton said.
“Overall I think the proposed Basin Plan Amendments provide a positive outcome.
“One thing we do need is certainty and that when we get through this process by 2019, no one has a cloud hanging over their head wondering what is going to happen next.”