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Get Plan facts straight

by
May 24, 2018

Sir,

I write to respond to the Letter to the Editor asking if Southern Riverina Irrigators ‘‘fully understands’’ the implications of the agreement reached between the government and the Labor Party to progress the Basin Plan (‘Dangerous deal for local region’, Southern Riverina News, Wednesday, May 16).

The answer is; Yes.

SRI representing the five Landholder Associations in the MIL footprint carefully considered what was on the table and we, along with many others in the irrigation sector, decided that less water recovery is best.

The agreement reached by the ALP and the Government on these issues – constraints, adjustment and up-water — is the Basin Plan as it stands and as it has always been since 2012.

What was on the table was either:

a) No SDL Adjustment meaning at least 240GL (a third of what MIL have left) to be recovered from this region alone to meet the 650GL from the entire southern basin and no environmental works and measures. i.e. no winners.

b) Accept the SDL Adjustment to reduce water recovery in the Southern Basin by 605GL allowing works and measures to get flows where they need to go for the environment.

There was, and never has been, an option for the 450GL to go away.

What SRI will focus our attention on now is how it is accumulated and how the social and economic neutrality test is applied.

Further, as water recovery is voluntary, there is no guarantee that any further water recovery will come from our region — that decision lies with our farmers and water licence holders.

When the deal was announced, SRI sought and received assurances from the NSW Government that they are seeking off-farm solutions or irrigator-led proposals to deliver against the 450GL. They acknowledge that there is little appetite in the SRI region to participate.

With regards to the other concerns raised in the letter, we followed up on the issue of border flows the morning after the announcement.

The NSW Government remains committed to honouring the Constraints Management Proposals submitted under the Adjustment Mechanism and will not exceed agreed limits negotiated with stakeholder committees.

The Federal Government acknowledges that the border flow target has always been part of the modelling underpinning the Basin Plan and they will work towards meeting that target within agreed operational management plans accepting that this may mean it is not achievable in all but exceptional circumstances.

This Bi-Partisan Agreement is the culmination of joint efforts. Federal, State, Ministers, Shadow Ministers, advisors, department staff, MDBA staff and irrigation representatives from across Basin states have worked very hard to find a way forward for this Plan.

At SRI, we thank the positive contributors to this negotiated outcome for their commitment to stop water recovery from productive use in our region.

Our members have told us they do not want more water recovered from our region and we will continue to work with decision makers and influencers to find ways to implement the plan without water from productive use. It is a sad day if we cannot celebrate that 240GL of water will not be leaving our region.

Yours etc.

Gabrielle Coupland

Chair, Southern Riverina Irrigators

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