The release of the second Water for the Environment Special Account (WESA) report highlights that without the support of all Basin States, the Basin Plan will fail.
The Shadow Minister for Water, Perin Davey said a lot had happened between the first WESA report and the one released today, including increased progress since the focus had switched to off-farm.
“The first report showed that, despite best efforts, there was little appetite for on-farm projects under the programs offered,” Senator Davey said.
“But thanks to the changes made by the Coalition working with the States and focusing off-farm, the second report shows the 62GL needed to meet the Basin Plans limits of change requirement can be achieved.
“What is not surprising is the acknowledgement that funding announced in 2012 for the 450GL of water, over and above the sustainable diversion limit recovery targets, would be insufficient to do the job.
“What is disappointing is the failure of the report to assess the social and economic impacts of this extra water recovery, regardless of the up-front costs.
Senator Davey quoted then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard who when announcing the last-minute 450GL addition to the Plan, said it would be recovered in a way to ‘… minimise the impact on communities … to ensure there is no social and economic downside for communities.’
This intent was then ingrained into the 2012 Basin Plans DNA with bi-partisan support. Furthermore, in 2018, all Basin State Governments agreed to a criterion against which to assess the neutral or positive social and economic impact.
“This report is only looking at one part of one chapter of the Basin Plan while I am focused on the Basin Plan in its entirety, and as part of more than two decades of water reform that has recovered over 4,000GL for the environment,” Senator Davey said.
“Modelling prior to the final Basin Plan showed, recovering the additional 450GL without removing the constraints will not deliver the environmental outcomes being sought but, to address constraints you need State and community support. This report does not assess that.
“These are the types of complexities which haunt every section of the Basin Plan.
“Both NSW and Victorian Governments have made it clear on numerous occasions that recovering an additional 450GL will have major social and economic impacts as well as leading to environmental degradation if constraints are not addressed.
“This WESA report shows that we, in Government, were willing to adjust and adapt to maximise the outcomes being achieved environmentally, socially and economically,” Senator Davey said.