Riverina communities would be “decimated” if the Senate disallows the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism.
A vote on May 8 to not approve water recovery projects (which are already part of the Basin Plan) would most likely mean 605GL of water for the environment would be pulled from irrigation farmers.
“It will decimate our region. If that’s what they do it will absolutely decimate it,” Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Gabrielle Coupland told The Border Mail.
The adjustment projects are upgrades to infrastructure or river operations to move water more efficiently, sending more of it to where it's needed and less being lost in evaporation.
The Murray Darling Basin Authority has calculated that the 37 offset projects nominated between NSW, Queensland, Victoria and SA can reduce the recovery target of 2750GL by 605G.
It will decimate our region. If that’s what they do it will absolutely decimate itGabrielle Coupland, Southern Riverina Irrigators
About 2100GL has already been recovered through direct buybacks, or co-investments between the Commonwealth and farmers to swap water entitlements for on-farm upgrades.
That means the 605GL slated to come through offset projects can deliver the rest of the water reduction – without the need for further irrigation cuts.
“We’re the ones who are suffering and we’re the ones with the downside as well,” Mrs Coupland said.
“If the 605GL is not recovered my understanding is, and I hope to be corrected, that they come back to us because there is nowhere else to get the water from.
“They’d come back to us to recover the balance, and that is pretty scary.”
Southern Riverina Irrigators are not a lone voice trying to highlight the serious consequences for rural families and communities if the motion pushed by city dwelling Greens, who will not feel any impact of their decision, passes.
The Ricegrowers Association of Australia said a disallowance of the amendment would spell disaster for the Basin environment as well communities.
“In 2012 the then Labor Government when legislating the plan, stated that they included the mechanism because it was the best way to address the concerns of Basin communities. The time has come for this parliament to make it a reality,” president Jeremy Morton said.
“A successful disallowance would stop the Basin Plan in its tracks and result in negative impacts for the environment and communities that live within the Murray Darling Basin.
“It is incomprehensible that anyone would want to destroy the plan when we have come so far.”
The MDBA stood by the plan, highlighting that the adjustment mechanism was already approved by parliament in 2012.
“Implementing the Basin Plan is not easy, but it is visionary, long-term policy which Australia should be proud of,” MDBA chief Phillip Glyde said.
“It is disappointing that the culmination of years of progress and world-leading water reform in our country may be put at risk by ill-informed and unsubstantiated claims.
“I urge all parties to remain united behind the common goals of the Basin Plan – a healthy future for the river system and the communities and industries that depend upon it.”
Southern Riverina Irrigators presented their case to the Standing Committee on Environment and Energy when it came through the region this week.
Ms Coupland said the committee understood the plight of water communities and hoped the message would get through to those in Canberra about to vote.