A senior government minister says there needs to be an “audit” of environmental watering under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Member for Farrer and federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said she would be bringing a list of three “progress points” to her meeting with the new basin authority head Phillip Glyde.
“Mr Glyde has an opportunity to reset the direction of the basin plan,” Ms Ley said. “He should consider convincing the communities in the Murrumbidgee and the Murray that the environmental watering plan actually is going to work.”
Ms Ley said she wasn’t sure if studies into the effect of environmental watering had even been carried out.
“I’m calling for them to be done,” she said. “People aren’t against improving the environment but what they are dead against is taking this water without actually achieving an environmental benefit. The focus has been on recovering water but not enough focus has been put on where that water goes, how it gets there and what it achieves.”
Ms Ley’s “progress points” were to hold off on recovering any more water until farmers “say yes” to it, as well as properly measuring the social and economic impacts.
“The real impact on our communities since water buybacks started hasn’t been properly understood,” Ms Ley said. “Those three things are on my list when I meet with the new chief office of the authority in the very near future and ultimately we need our community to support what’s going on.”
Ms Ley said she wasn’t suggesting “tearing up” the basin plan.
“This needs to be something we do ‘with’ communities, not ‘to’ communities,” she said.
Paul Pierotti from Griffith Business Chamber commended Ms Ley for calling for the three progress points on the Murray Darling Basin Plan, including an audit on environmental water use and benefits.
“It goes without saying that the MDBA must be accountable for the water they have stripped from production,” Mr Pierotti said. “Communities which soon look to be grouped in Ms Ley’s seat really need more than accountability. The basin plan, in our view, has failed at all levels and is counter-productive to the environment, communities, productivity and Australia’s economic future.”
However Mr Pierotti disputed Ms Ley’s comment about having come too far to scrap the plan.
“If we were driving a car toward a cliff and realised that we could stop why wouldn’t we?” he said. “The Senate Inquiry outcomes will be soon be announced and Ms Ley along with all other government officials should look seriously at implementing their recommendations.”