A group of 12 scientists and economists is calling for a radical change in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, saying the billions of dollars spent so far have failed to achieve better water flows.
The group is calling for a halt to all public subsidies and grants towards irrigation infrastructure in the basin and an independent audit to examine environmental outcomes.
‘‘This is not about politics or about playing the ‘blame game’,’’ Quentin Grafton, economics professor at the Australian National University, said.
‘‘It is about saying water reform is not delivering what it said it would for the basin, its environment or its people — and saying how we solve it.’’
The group of 12 signatories also includes Richard Davis, former chief science adviser to the National Water Commission.
But the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and other water industry leaders have dismissed the declaration.
‘‘Claims that the plan’s investment in more modern and efficient water infrastructure is not delivering benefits for the environment are simply not true,’’ chief executive Phillip Glyde said.
‘‘The basin plan was neither expected nor intended to deliver immediate results,’’ Mr Glyde said.
‘‘It is simply not possible to repair 100 years of damage to such a vast river system overnight, or even within five years.’’
Federal Assistant Water Minister Anne Ruston said: ‘‘The first people to be screaming at us for not delivering the plan on time will be these people (the scientists), and yet they are now the ones telling us to stop the plan.’’
The Murray River Group of Councils yesterday expressed disappointment at the intervention.
Group chairwoman Cheryl McKinnon said: ‘‘The assertions in this so-called declaration are simply wrong and shows that Professor Grafton and his group just don’t understand the impact on the communities of the basin,’’ group chairwoman Cheryl McKinnon said.
‘‘The assertion that investment in irrigation infrastructure is only providing benefits to irrigators is untrue and is offensive to the people who live in the basin who have put in huge effort to provide water for the environment.’’