The latest ‘Roadmap’ to come out of the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) highlights just how little people of the basin matter to the Albanese Government.
The document, Roadmap to the 2026 Basin Plan Review, was released by the MDBA at the River Reflections Conference in Narrabri on the weekend shows how far the road has veered away from a triple bottom line according to Shadow Water Minister, Perin Davey.
“The Roadmap waxes lyrical about the need to use up to date information, consider First Nations and incorporate climate change but makes very little acknowledgement of how far we have come and how much our Basin Communities have done to date.
“It is quite a slap in the face for all the communities who have seen water leave their districts that they have barely been mentioned in the roadmap and there is nothing to explain how social and economic factors will form part of the review and considerations for the future,” Senator Davey said.
She explained a key concern is that there is no clear baseline benchmark for social and economic factors, despite a massive investment under the Liberals and Nationals in Government which produced a report and a now archived interactive page on the MDBA website.
“The MDBA as recently as Senate Estimates hearing held at the end of May, have been unable to articulate what benchmark they are using for social and economic indicators in the basin, which makes it incredibly difficult to judge the impact the basin plan has had on our communities,” Senator Davey said.
“Worse still, with the Government now saying they will now buy up to 750 gigalitres to finalise this Basin Plan which significantly risks the loss of jobs and the economic collapse of irrigation dependent communities will be inevitable.”
Senator Davey referenced a Victorian Government report released last year which found ‘if an additional 760 GL in total (372 GL for ‘Bridging the Gap’ plus 388 GL for Efficiency Projects) were to be recovered via buyback, in line with the CEWH’s existing portfolio, the average annual cost in foregone production would be over $850 million per year.’ The report found that thousands of hectares of permanent plantings would dry out and die if buybacks were undertaken to finalise the Basin Plan.
“With the dairy industry already suffering from the impact of water buybacks and estimates the cost of living would rise if access to water is further restricted due to the fact 40% of the nations’ farms are in the Basin it is high time due consideration was given to social and economic factors, not just in irrigation communities, but on all Australians.
“Now we see this Roadmap which talks about reviewing the sustainable water take levels and communities are fearful that it will recommend further water recovery ignoring their needs.
“It is a grave mistake and insult to people in the Basin that the MDBA that the Albanese Government has chosen not include the social and economic health of our Basin Communities as one of the four pillars outlined in the Roadmap.”