LOCAL irrigators and water stakeholders are furious over the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s proposed Constraints Management Strategy – slamming it as a thinly veiled attempt to “change all the rules”.
The report, released yesterday, comes amid celebrations across the region after the Coalition confirmed a promised 1500-gigalitre cap on water buybacks.
While the new government has also promised to inject significant funds into developing water-saving infrastructure, NSW Irrigator’s Council CEO Andrew Gregson said irrigators will be “greatly disturbed” by the MDBA’s report.
“The term Constraints Management Strategy sounds good – but a quick glance at the draft document published today shows that it is simply code for changing all the rules,” Mr Gregson said.
“We’ve consistently argued that water entitlements must not have their characteristics changed based on who owns them or uses them. “The document flies in the face of political bipartisan agreement with that position.”
The MDBA’s draft report identifies physical structures and river-management rules and practices that it says impede the effective delivery of environmental flows.
Mr Gregson said the report undermined confidence in the water market.
“From our perspective, it’s the equivalent of opening a Pandora’s Box - rules are rules and you have to stick to them,” he said.
“What they call constraints, we call houses, bridges and roads.”
The authority is currently calling for feedback on the report and a public meeting will be held at the Deniliquin RSL next Thursday from 2.30 to 4pm.
Murrumbidgee Food and Fibre Association president Debbie Buller has urged people to have their say.
“The report is very unclear - it’s all words with no practical strategy to determine whether it would work or not,” Mrs Buller said.
“I’d urge locals to head along to any meetings they can because the implementation stage is where we’re most vulnerable.”
Member for Riverina Michael McCormack will meet with the Nationals today with water policy at the top of his agenda.
“Anything that gets in the way of environmental flows will have to go,” Mr McCormack said.
“The amount of water they want to push down the river is going to cause problems.”
Meanwhile, head of Griffith Business Chamber Paul Pierotti has applauded parliamentary secretary to the minister for environment Simon Birmingham’s confirmation of a cap on buybacks.
“It’s a huge relief,” Mr Pierotti said.
“As a business investor, our decisions are based on certainty and we can’t rely on the state government’s block of a federal government attack.
“The whole community has been in a stalemate for years because of this threat and I do believe now, this threat has been removed.”