The failure of the Murray Darling Basin Plan to meet environmental water recovery targets required by mid-2024 should prompt an urgent review of the marks rather than an extension of the deadline. One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts said the targets were unrealistic and Labor’s plans to meet them threatened jobs and industry in Basin communities.
“Recovering up to 3200 gigalitres by mid-2024 was unrealistic,” Senator Roberts said.
“We are about 750 GL short with less than 11 months to go. “Much of this was meant to be recovered by projects under the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM), but for almost five years now, there have been well-considered warnings these would not be completed in time. The amounts of water it was claimed these projects would deliver were also highly dubious.
“The real fear among irrigators and Basin communities is that Labor will return to large-scale buybacks to recover this water under new deadlines negotiated with the Basin states.
“We’ve all seen the devastating impact of buybacks. Businesses close, jobs are lost, and money flows out of river communities, never to return. There are also impacts on irrigators who remain in the system via the ‘Swiss cheese effect’; they’re forced to pay more to deliver water if they can even access it.
“Why should Queensland irrigators be forced into selling productive water only for it to evaporate uselessly in South Australia’s Lower Lakes? Other innovations can efficiently deliver environmental water to the end of the Murray-Darling that doesn’t require forcing it from desperate irrigators, especially when they are facing forecasts of much drier conditions in the Basin.
“This effort is costing taxpayers more than $13 billion. Irrigators have already given up more than 2000 GL of water to environmental flows. Enough is enough. Labor is standing firm on targets that will devastate irrigation industries and river communities, and there are tame Labor state governments to agree to more taxpayer spending and extended deadlines.
“It’s the targets themselves that must be reviewed and ultimately reduced. Labor must stick to the original promise of the Plan agreed with irrigators – additional water would not be taken out of irrigation if it had any negative economic or social impact. There is no escaping the negative economic and social impacts of further water recovery, so let’s make the targets more realistic and finally show our support for the irrigators who produce 40% of Australia’s food and fibre in the Murray-Darling Basin