Long way to go

March 09, 2018

David Littleproud with Member for Murray Damian Drum at the forum.

Orchardist Peter Hall speaks at the Shepparton forum.

Stability around the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has pointed to a long journey ahead, according to Federal Water Resources Minister David Littleproud.

The minister was in Shepparton yesterday to meet landowners across the region over concerns about the plan.

The plan was recently plunged into uncertainty after federal Labor, the Greens and Nick Xenophon Team blocked a move to revise the water allocations in the northern basin down from 390GL to 320GL, reducing the amount of water being returned to the environment in southern Queensland and northern NSW.

The Opposition supported the Greens’ disallowance motion, citing concerns over water theft allegations in NSW and other compliance issues.

As a result, the Victorian and NSW water ministers threatened to back out of the plan, leading to growing concerns the whole plan could unravel.

Facing a room full of concerned irrigators at the Greater Shepparton City Council offices, Mr Littleproud said he understood the frustration for basin-reliant communities and was committed to delivering the plan.

‘‘The reality is there is a long way to go and it’s going to take leadership and I’m reaching out to those on the other side to give these people certainty, that’s what they need,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m committed to ensuring that I lead this nation in terms of water, because we don’t want to the water wars of 10 years ago.’’

Mr Littleproud said there were a number of challenges right up and down the basin and that he hoped governments would step up and work collaboratively with community to ensure impacts were minimised.

‘‘The plan is the law as we state it at the moment, this is the plan. What I fear is that if we blow this up, we’ll have some form of another government that want to come back and ask for more and that’s not acceptable to me. The science has been predicated on this plan, we need to deliver the plan as we heard,’’ he said.

‘‘The people here believe the plan needs to be delivered, they want confidence in Australian leadership, in those who are elected to Parliament, that they deliver it, and that’s what I’m committed to do. I’m not into petty politics, I just want to deliver the plan and get the hell out of their life.’’

The Productivity Commission will put controversial changes to water allocations in the Murray-Darling Basin under the microscope in a fresh inquiry into the troubled plan.

Treasurer Scott Morrison on Wednesday announced the inquiry would look into the effectiveness and implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

A proposed change to allocations shot down by the Senate has been included in the terms of reference.

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