Sussan Ley backs NSW move to withdraw from Basin Plan after Greens' Senate blocking motion

IN their bid to save rivers and the environment it appears the Greens have instead done the opposite.

A four-year socio-economic and environmental study saw the Murray Darling Basin Plan recommended the initial recovery target in the Northern Basin be downgraded by 70 gigalitres, from 390GL to 320GL.

The Greens brought a blocking motion, which on Wednesday night was backed by Labor and Nick Xenophon Team, that prevents the reduction coming into effect.

NSW and Victoria will follow through their warning and withdraw from the plan – which was signed off by then Labor water minster Tony Burke in November 2012 and supported by the states.

“We will go it alone because we can’t trust South Australia, we can’t trust federal Labor and we certainly can’t trust the Greens,” NSW Water Minister Niall Blair said. 

“They have put our communities last … We put our communities first.

“We trust our farmers and we’re going to get on and make some decisions that are right for NSW.”

Member for Farrer Sussan Ley supported NSW’s decision.

“Almost all of the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys are in my electorate of Farrer,” Ms Ley told federal Parliament on Thursday.

“We have worked hard, given up much, prepared for a future with less water and once again we confront an uncertain future.

“It gives me no joy to say this on behalf of the people I represent, but as I foreshadowed last week, I have called Niall Blair … and urged him to withdraw NSW from the Basin Plan.

“Trust has gone. Confidence has gone.” 

Albury councillor David Thurley, who is Murray Darling Association national president, said the Senate had compromised the Basin Plan for political purposes and shown a disappointing lack of regard for a process agreed to and signed by all states.

“This is an irresponsible vote that puts political interests before Basin communities and threatens to destabilise the entire Basin Plan,” Cr Thurley said.

Deniliquin rice farmer Shelley Scoullar, SpeakUp 4 Water spokesperson, said Riverina irrigation farmers know healthy rivers were vital but the Basin Plan in its current form was not well supported by irrigation communities.

“Maybe this is actually a chance to re-evaluate and assess the volumes that we actually need, the damage that has already been done and what other opportunities there are for solutions rather than just add water theory,” she said. 

“In its current form there’s no winners.”