Basin Plan back-step

February 17, 2018

The Labor Party and the Greens have all but guaranteed the Basin Plan will not deliver outcomes for environmental health, according to Southern Riverina Irrigators.

The Labor Party and the Nick Xenaphon Team joined the Greens on Wednesday to vote in the Senate to disallow an amendment to the Basin Plan. The amendment would have enabled the implementation of a series of measures to improve environmental outcomes and reduce the water recovery target in the northern basin by 70 gigalitres.

‘‘Labor Senator Penny Wong admitted the Basin Plan is now at risk and blamed Malcolm Turnbull for handing the water portfolio to The Nationals,” SRI chair Gabrielle Coupland said.

‘‘But the amendment is the result of a clause in the Basin Plan written in there by Labor’s Tony Burke and follows years of scientific review and community consultation.

‘‘By taking this action, the Senate has decided they know better than the experts and have put at risk environmental outcomes, jobs and industries. The only people to blame are the Greens and the Labor Party.

‘‘Every issue they have raised can be addressed, and processes are in place to do so. They have no justifiable reason not to support the recommendation of the Murray Darling Basin Authority — an independent authority.’’

Mrs Coupland said the NSW and Victorian Governments were united in standing by their commitment to the process which was agreed by all Basin governments last June, warning this week if the amendment was disallowed they would review their participation in Basin Plan programs.

‘‘Not only did those governments show a commitment to collaboration and genuine process, they also showed a commitment to their communities in their preparedness to walk away,’’ she said.

Mrs Coupland said the future of the Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment mechanism amendment, which the Greens have already tabled a motion to disallow, is now uncertain.

‘‘Not only does that mean ongoing uncertainty for us, it undermines the ability of environmental water managers to achieve meaningful environmental outcomes.

‘‘By disallowing the northern basin amendment, they have turned their back on the ‘toolkit measures’ which would have delivered better environmental outcomes including protecting environmental flows.

‘‘The whole purpose of the adjustment mechanism is about getting more from what they have which is a win for everyone. If that amendment is also disallowed, those projects, including constraints management, will be gone.

‘‘We have always said the Basin Plan needs to be outcomes focused but the Greens are yet again making it simply about a number, prioritising volume and compromising river health outcomes.’’

NSW Minister for Regional Water Niall Blair said this move from the Greens and NSW Labor ‘‘makes the Basin Plan untenable for New South Wales’’.

‘‘The Greens and Labor have hijacked the Murray Darling Basin Plan in the Senate this evening,’’ Mr Blair said on Wednesday night.

‘‘It is a sad day for New South Wales when a plan that everyone has been working on for six long years, a plan that delivers healthy rivers and viable regional communities, is thrown on the scrap heap by the Greens and Labor in a race for votes in South Australia.

‘‘The northern basin review was always part of the Basin Plan package and rejecting it now undermines the ability of basin ministers to make binding decisions at the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council.’’

Mr Blair said the Federal Government must now ‘‘fix the Senate’s sabotage and take every step necessary to prevent the short-sighted and politically motivated action that will destroy this historic reform’’.

‘‘The New South Wales Government was committed to delivering the plan, but Federal Labor and the Greens have decided to put people last and politics first,’’ he said.

‘‘Our communities and the environment deserve better and most importantly, they deserve certainty.’’

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