The Government’s dogged pursuit of an extra 450GL of water under the Murray Darling Basin Plan should be put on hold until it is better understood what constraints easing projects can achieve.
According to the Productivity Commissions interim report on the implementation of the Basin Plan; “Some of the environmental benefits of this additional water are also contingent on the delivery of constraints easing projects.”
Shadow Water Minister, Perin Davey said the Government has had their priorities wrong on the 450GL
“It has always been the case that the 450GL only delivers additional environmental benefit if constraints can be dealt with,” she said.
“Without that you are just dribbling water down the system with no additional environmental benefit and in some cases, causing environmental harm through bank scouring due to consistent flows at bank level.
“Not only that, but chasing the 450 before understanding what water recovery is required under the baseline targets is putting the cart before the horse.”
Senator Davey noted the Productivity Commission said running parallel water recovery programs in a tight water market risks causing sharp price rises and community uncertainty and angst.
“The PC report rightly notes the 2026 Basin Plan Review will consider the environmentally sustainable level of take and is the right time to assess how best to deliver the enhanced environmental outcomes the 450 is designed to meet.
“For the sake of communities, that the PC notes have seen agricultural employment fall rapidly without offsetting growth in other areas, we need to get our priorities right.
“There is no point pursuing volume that can’t be effectively utilised for maximum environmental benefit.
“There is a reason why the Basin Plan was written as is – water recovery and offsets, constraints, and then additional water through the 450 – as long as it does not cause social and economic harm.
“If the Government is impatient, they should bring forward the Basin Plan Review so they know they are operating under the best available and most up to date science and understanding of river operations and environmental management,” Senator Davey said.