Sussan Ley slams new report, backs irrigators

Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley has thrown her support behind Griffith irrigators, slamming a recently released report advocating the extraction of another 450 gigalitres of water from the Murray Darling Basin.

The report from Ernst & Young, commissioned by the Federal Government, explores projects to help recover up to 450 gigalitres of water from the Murray Darling Basin. 

The report has been criticised by members of Parliament, farmers and water campaigners alike.

Ms Ley says the report fails to take individual communities into account. 

“I take my advice on the communities I represent from the communities themselves, not from remotely carefully-crafted reports that come out of ministers offices,” she said. 

“Unfortunately, the report does not hit the mark. It fails to understand we are not one single Murray-Darling basin community, we are many. Each community deserves to survive and thrive.”

Recently-appointed Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud called for “a renewed commitment to the Basin Plan” following the report’s release.

“The EY study gives us a reference point for a frank, respectful and constructive discussion on efficiency measures and to get cracking on savings which can be made now without social or economic impacts," Minister Littleproud said.

"It is important we all act maturely and treat those communities most directly affected in the Basin Plan with the respect they deserve, the respect of certainty.”

I remain committed to delivering the plan to which all Basin governments agreed, the 450 GL and delivering efficiency measures without negative social or economic impacts."

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Ms Ley says opposition to such action is clear. 

”My message to the Agriculture and Water Minister, who I’ve written to and who I’ll meet with in Canberra, is that my communities do not accept the 450 gigalitre upwater and I do not support it. I can’t be any more black and white than that.”

State Member for Murray Austin Evans also raised concerns about the lack of detail surrounding potential socio-economic impacts.

“I believe Ernst & Young has taken the soft option. They have avoided stating what is obvious to everyone that it is not possible to take out additional water without causing problems in the communities,” Mr Evans. 

“One of my key priorities is to make sure there is no further socio-economic impact on the communities within the Murray Electorate – whether it be from the removal of 450 gigalitres or anything else.”

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MIA water campaigner Paul Pierotti says the report doesn’t take the socio-economic impact of these proposed changes into account. 

He says a decline in Griffith’s Gross Regional Product, which slipped -1.3% in 2016, shows the economic impact the basin plan has already had on the community. 

“If you were going to take any more water from the system, it is undoubtedly going to have a huge socio-economic impact on our community,” he said. 

He cited the rice industry as one under threat from any further water recovery.

Another critic is Coleambally Chamber of Commerce President Lynne Stuckings. Ms Stuckings was involved in the report’s consultation process. 

She says the extra financial strain put on farmers can prevent them from spending money in local businesses. 

“Our farmers have also become much more efficient, but there’s a lot of them that feel like there isn’t much more they can do,” she said. 

“We feel like we've upheld our end of the bargain. Pockets aren't bottomless. There is always a limit.”