Water

Farmers call for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to disband

By Country News

Farming groups across southern NSW and northern Victoria have called on an upcoming meeting of state and federal water ministers to disband Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Farmers across the Murray-Darling Basin said the MDBA failed to be independent and deliver the flexible and efficient basin plan that was promised.

Organisations involved include Northern Victorian Irrigation Communities, Murrumbidgee Industry and Agriculture Communities, Sunraysia Citrus Growers, Speak Up Campaign and Upper Goulburn River Catchment Association.

These organisations said the MDBA had failed to be an independent body — supporting government directives instead of providing Australians with a transparent assessment of issues that need to be addressed.

Sunraysia Citrus Growers member Kevin Cock and Murrumbidgee Industry and Agricultural Communities chair Paul Pierotti said they believed the time for ‘splitting up’ the organisation, as recommended by the Productivity Commission, had passed.

“It needs to be scrapped and a new organisation established that will work with communities to deliver the adaptive, balanced water reform that was promised but has not been delivered by an organisation that we believe has failed this nation,” they said.

Mr Cock said the MDBA's latest communique that claimed it was "imperative that we keep abreast of community views across the basin” was laughable.

“The MDBA went to Deniliquin over three years ago, acknowledged its community engagement in the region needed to improve and gave a commitment this would happen,” Mr Cock said.

“What has that severely impacted community seen since?

“Virtually nothing.

“Murray-Darling Basin Authority's idea of consultation is telling us what it is going to do, ignoring local input and solutions and barging ahead regardless of the social, economic or environmental damage.”

Mr Pierotti said the MDBA supported false claims by Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud that Australia was producing enough food for 75 million people.

“We know this was the case in the past, but we also know that food production has been severely impacted by a range of factors including the basin plan.

“Why is the MDBA getting involved in a political issue?”

Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party leader Robert Borsak said Deputy Premier John Barilaro failed to deliver water to farmers to grow the produce necessary for communities affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“If Barilaro and Pavey (NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey) are genuinely concerned about food production in the southern basin, they should immediately partially suspend the water sharing plan using food production as the public interest trigger,” Mr Borsak said.

“Then the minister should seek applications from licence holders for access to water for food
production.”