Murray-Darling Basin Plan costs $550m a year in lost production across Goulburn Murray Irrigation District

Up to 2000 jobs would be lost across the region if the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is fully implemented in its current form.

A report, commissioned by the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District’s water leadership forum, was released on Monday and also forecasts $4.4billion in annual production losses by 2020.

“The study shows the Basin Plan has already had a significant impact on the area, and without change, it will put industries at risk,” forum chairperson Suzanna Sheed, the Independent Member for Shepparton, said.

“It showed reduced water available for productive use under the current plan has already cost us more than $550 million each year in lost production.

The study, by Bendigo-based RMCG, echoed findings in the MDBA’s Northern Basin Review, which showed communities relying on access to water would suffer under the plan.

The plan limits the amount of water that can be used annually from the Murray Darling Basin for urban, industrial and agricultural use.

That saved water is then diverted to environmental flows, to improve and maintain the health of waterways and protect habitats for animals and plants. 

It came into effect in 2012 and is reviewed and revised during its seven-year implementation phase.

Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Graeme Pyle believed the MDBA should not review its own plan and only an independent Basin-wide inquiry would show the real costs and environmental benefits of the plan in its current form.

“If marking your own homework was satisfactory we’d have a whole lot more brain surgeons than we’ve got now,” he said.

“Rather than risk another fake consultancy we want an independent one.

“We’ve got five universities in the basin and surely we should be able to get people from within them and across them to do our study for us.”

Mr Pyle, who farms at Berrigan, said the plan was set up to address water issues in South Australia  and questioned whether it was delivering benefits to the environment.

“Barnaby Joyce was in the district last week and we asked him to set up a cost benefit analysis of the entire Murray-Darling Basin, and a review with regard to trees, birds, fish and frogs and whether they’ve benefited by the MDBA Plan in its time or whether they’ve actually suffered,” he said.

“Then we could put the whole jigsaw together to see how much the nation has lost for the benefit of an environmental debacle that’s been caused by South Australia.”