With 2019 emerging as another challenging year for producers and farmers across southern NSW, government policy on water distribution remains my strongest focus in the months ahead.
In December the Ministerial Council made the welcome decision to ensure 450gl of additional water from the Plan does not further harm irrigation areas in Farrer.
This year a review of the existing environmental watering strategy becomes yet another critical step to ensure the Plan can become ‘workable’ in my communities.
Our message is very clear. The Murray Darling Basin Plan is meant to be about government working with the people, to make sure the river system and our irrigation communities are viable and sustainable over the long term.
What is needed is stronger, more meaningful engagement with communities, with a focus on what the Plan should look like, and to reflect on how it might be changed to improve local impacts.
I have now written to the Prime Minister requesting a social and economic assessment of the state of the Southern Basin, so we can make our case to all governments that ongoing low general security allocations are a brutal and unintended consequence of the Basin Plan.
We desperately need an audit of the use of environmental water; one which is subject to an independent assessment by the Commonwealth Auditor General. Disturbing evidence this week of fish stock deaths in a number of areas of my electorate again demonstrates the complete lack of flexibility in allocating this water where and when it is needed.
A change to rules on how water is managed within and between valleys, above and below the Barmah Choke, and between the environment and operational use is also required.
Ongoing management of the Murray Darling Basin by four states and the Commonwealth
(all needing to agree) is a complex, cumbersome model. There are no quick fixes, but we are making progress.
I will continue to fight to improve the Plan for our regional communities who love and live on our greatest river systems.