Basin Plan dead in the water: Riverina backs withdrawal

NEW BEGINNINGS: Griffith irrigation farmer Kel Williams hopes the death of the Basin Plan will mean a fresh start with farmers and industry groups backing NSW's move to abandon the project.
NEW BEGINNINGS: Griffith irrigation farmer Kel Williams hopes the death of the Basin Plan will mean a fresh start with farmers and industry groups backing NSW's move to abandon the project.

Farmers around the Riverina are standing by the state government’s threat to pull out of the Murray Darling Basin Plan completely. 

NSW and Victoria aim to jump ship after the Senate blocked planned changes to return some 70 gigalitres in water savings to basin communities for productive use. 

Despite questions over the legality, they’ve been commended for sticking up for their regions. 

“There’s a huge number of jobs around the Riverina which are totally dependent on irrigation,” Wagga NSW Farmers branch president Alan Brown said. 

He said increased water flows are a local concern. 

“It produces high flows when there are huge environmental releases and it makes us more prone to severe flooding,” he said. 

“The risk to our people in our part of the world is quite high, as soon as a heavy rainfall comes at the same time as a flow it’s not just irrigators it’s all people living and working close to river who will pay the price.” 

“Pushing vast amounts water to South Australia also has very limited benefits because the river can’t handle the quantities they’re talking about.” 

Mitchell Clapham, NSW Farmers’ Conservation and Resource Management Committee Chair condemned Labor and the Greens for passing the disallowance motion. 

“The move undoes years of hard work and compromise by Basin communities and sees NSW lose out significantly,” he said. 

“This does nothing to help the environment and leaves an uncertain state of limbo for all concerned.”

President of the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia Jeremy Morton labelled the Senate knock-back a betrayal. 

“This decision makes all of us wonder why we bother to work in good faith on extremely difficult reforms like the Basin Plan only to return to the law of the jungle when political opportunity presents,” he said.

Kel Williams, a Griffith irrigation farmer told Fairfax Media the end of the Basin Plan would offer the chance for a fresh start. 

He said any new strategy needs to take account of what’s happening in South Australia.

“The evaporation of the Coorong is responsible for more water loss than what the irrigators take”. 

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