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Minister David Littleproud says there was more work to be done on the basin plan

By Alana Christensen

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has moved to calm concerns regarding the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, calling on all parties to ‘‘take a leap of faith’’.

Hosting a public forum alongside Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum in Shepparton yesterday, Mr Littleproud told the 150-strong crowd there was more work on the basin plan to be done.

The controversial 450Gl of ‘up-water’ to be returned to the environment was the ‘‘elephant in the room’’ according to many attendees who voiced concerns about the effect water recovery would have on the region.

The 450Gl of water cannot be delivered unless it achieves neutral or positive socio-economic effects, with a framework to assess possible impacts currently being discussed by basin governments.

‘‘The neutrality test is important, it has to be respected ... We intend to respect those guidelines,’’ Mr Littleproud said.

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership co-chair and Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said there must be a broad and thorough test applied to any water to be retrieved for the 450Gl.

‘‘The best thing you could do for us ... is guarantee that if there is any negative impacts across our towns ... that no water towards the 450 will be taken from us,’’ she said to applause from the crowd.

Mr Littleproud said there must be faith.

‘‘The problem with the plan is there hasn’t be trust. We have to take a leap of faith,’’ he said.

Katunga dairy farmer Daryl Hoey questioned the recent federal agriculture department-led consultations regarding the test, which were plagued by a lack of information and short notice.

He said state governments should be given a timeframe to develop the test before the department began discussing water recovery projects.

Mr Littleproud has ordered the department to return to locations they felt had not received enough notice.

Mr Littleproud was also in town spruiking upcoming consultations regarding a mandatory code of conduct.

He’s hopeful a framework can be agreed to before Christmas and in place for the next dairy season.