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Key Water Blog

Griffith NSW Farmers Water Forum with the MDBA

On Monday evening the 26th of February the NSW Farmers held a Water Forum in Griffith with the guest speaker being Colin Mues, Executive Director- Environmental Management from the Murray Darling Basin Authority. The turnout of approximately 20 farmers was surprisingly low, even allowing for those busy with grape harvest or finishing off watering their summer crops.

Initially he provided an update on the MDBA plan & the story behind the proposed SDL adjustment for the Northern Basin as well as the disallowance motion that passed to deny this adjustment, as it has been a hot topic in the media as of late. Following that he was joined by NSW Water in a Q&A with irrigators.

Colin stated that the idea of the MDBA plan is to keep all catchments sustainable for the environment & enhance water markets, providing more options for entitlement holders.

Colin emphasised that the Basin Plan & MDBA are not out to get irrigators; they understand the importance of irrigation water to farmers and the MDBA were the ones who recommended decreasing the target recovery in the Northern Basin from 390GL to 320GL. This was based on 4 years of research, which showed it provided the same amount of benefit to the environment as the 390GL. Unfortunately, this was blocked at the Senate with a disallowance motion being filed by the Greens, NXT & Labor. Colin stated his disappointment in this result. He also mentioned that the disallowance motion for the Southern Basin SDL adjustment mechanism projects, which in turn can reduce the Southern Basin recovery target from 2750GL by 605GL, will be handed down on the 8th of May and that Irrigators need to get in the ear of their local member of parliament to make their opinions known to ensure this disallowance motion does not get passed.

Unsurprisingly the discussion became heated at times, and Colin did state that there are areas of the plan that need attention, including the water resource plans which were meant to be completed by Christmas 2017 but to date only one has been finalised. They have now employed more staff & are on target for their goal to have all 14 completed in 2019. Another area that he stated needs attention is the compliance of water take.

Colin received many questions about issues & concerns from irrigators, such as low water allocations & environmental water priority, Colin stated all of these questions & issues are actually in relation to the Water Sharing Plans, and not the Basin Plan.

I would be interested to hear anyone else’s thoughts who attended this forum.

Rebecca Williams

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