John Lolicato: The amendment to the Basin Plan entrenches the removal of 450 gigalitres, most likely from Southern Basin Irrigators.
After the wild congratulatory celebrations by some Politicians and a number of industry leaders and CEO’s following the acceptance of the amendment to Basin Plan Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) last Tuesday, it is now time for them to sober up and actually explain to the people they represent and the Communities that depend on them what the consequences are of their wheeling and dealing.
While the amendment cancels the planned removal of 70 Gigalitres (GL) from Northern Basin irrigators, it entrenches the removal of an extra 450GL that the majority of will most likely be sourced from Southern Basin irrigators.
It is very clear that once again the NSW and Victorian Murray Valley irrigators have been sacrificed to get the SDLAM over the line. While the vast majority of fair minded people support the concept of the SDLAM being needed to achieve Environmental goals, no deal can justify sacrificing one Community or region for another.
Some Murray Darling Basin Plan issues worthy of notice are:
- More than 2100GL of Basin Plan water requirements have already been achieved. It is worth noting that more than 80% has been sourced from the southern connected system.
- There is some suspicion that the extra 450GL to be removed via purchases or efficiency measures is destined for South Australia
- The Murray and Goulbourn Rivers already have banks collapsing due to high flows through the natural physical constraints that cannot be overcome. Any extra flows will be an Environmental and social disaster.
- Under the efficiency measures the ability to access some of the $1.5Billion will once again divide our rural Communities by picking winners and losers. It also means less productive water in the pool.
- The definition under the neutrality test in the Basin Plan to access funding for efficiency projects is misleading and ambiguous and must be clarified i.e. one individual benefiting should not be allowed to override third party impacts.
- Of the 36 SDL adjustment mechanism projects, the majority are in NSW. The consequences for not achieving their targets will be horrendous to NSW Irrigators.
- There is $1.3billion available to be shared amongst the 36 SDL adjustment mechanism projects. It has been estimated that just one of the six constraints measures would need more than the $1.3b alone.
- Payments for the delivery of SDL projects will be conditional to delivery of efficiency measures. i.e. No 450 efficiency projects – no SDL funding.
- The reaffirmation of the 80,000ML/day flow target at the South Australian border by constraint relaxation is unrealistic as proven by the natural 2016 flood.
The most concerning part of this sordid saga is that Minister Littlepround was thrown into the ”hot seat” to ram through the 450GL but he clearly has not taken the time to try to understand the dire consequences these decisions will have on Murray and Goulbourn River Communities.
Contrary to the certainty that he claims the amendment to the Water Act will provide, the uncertainty created by another 450GL being acquired from our Communities, and the uncertainty surrounding some of the SDL projects, will ensure the angst about water security will remain for years to come.