New water threat looms

February 08, 2018

Deputy Prime Minister and former water minister Barnaby Joyce.

Goulburn Valley water industry leaders are expressing dismay over the apparent change in policy by the Federal Government.

Our national leaders look like they are pushing to expand the 2750Gl Murray-Darling Basin Plan into a 3200Gl one, and some of the extra 450Gl will come from our irrigators.

While former water minister Barnaby Joyce reflected the concern that the extra 450Gl could not be delivered without causing socio-economic detriment, his successor David Littleproud is adopting distinctively different language.

He refers to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan as a ‘‘3200 plan’’, signalling that his government will press ahead with the extra 450Gl, regardless of the qualification that it be delivered without negative socio-economic impacts.

It is a significant departure that has not been lost on water industry leaders, who can see that not only are they facing a fight with the South Australians and some university academics who want to see more water flushed out to sea at the Murray’s mouth, but also with the National party.

Who sounds a warning over the potential impact on our northern Victorian communities?

Mr Littleproud’s new approach comes at a time when other groups are arguing for a delivery of the 450Gl without qualification.

A group of 12 academics issued an astonishing ‘‘declaration’’ on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, calling for a halt to irrigation efficiency programs until a major audit of the basin water recovery plan has been done.

This should be worrying not only to irrigators, but environmentalists, who may wonder why governments should stop investing in programs which have been delivering water back to the environmental water holder.

Although Mr Littleproud has raised warnings about the cost of water buy-backs and he voices support for the rural community, his language over the 450Gl is sending tremors throughout the Goulburn Valley irrigation community.

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