Stakeholders are ‘disappointed’

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

The ABC’s Four Corners program missed the opportunity to expose the real problems associated with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on Monday night, according to an array of irrigation and landholder associations.

Titled ‘Cash Splash’, the report was an investigation into whether the contentious Murray-Darling Basin Plan has become a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money.

Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Chris Brooks — who spent several hours with the program’s producers but was left on the cutting room floor when it aired — said he was ‘‘disappointed’’ by the program overall.

‘‘I am bitterly disappointed the program missed the opportunity to expose the corporate distortion of government programs, but I was glad it highlighted the main problem is mismanagement of the river system by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority,’’ he said.

The NSW Farmers’ Association has suggested the ABC is ‘‘asking the wrong questions’’ based on Monday night’s program, particularly after report in The Weekly Times has highlighted the ‘‘misleading scientific evidence used in the plan’s development’’.

NSW Farmers’ Conservation and Resource Management Committee chair Bronwyn Petrie said if there’s to be an investigation into anything, it should be on the ‘‘alarming revelations that scientific evidence was tampered with’’ which she says may have resulted in the Murray Darling Basin Plan being developed on misleading information.

‘‘Farmers across the Murray Darling Basin, including many New South Wales Farmers members, are battling one of the worst droughts on record, with near-record low inflows into the system.

‘‘The ABC Four Corners’ decision to focus so heavily, and misleadingly, on productive agricultural practices operating within the law demonstrates a lack of understanding.

‘‘The ABC should commit to placing the same amount of scrutiny upon the scientific community which has made questionable claims about the Lower Lakes and Coorong, and then they should apologise to the hard-working farmers across the Murray Darling Basin who have been tarnished by the ABC’s ill-informed sensationalism.”

Ms Petrie said while rain would be an immense help during these drought conditions, a ‘‘fair go’’ for farmers is also a must.

‘‘The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is an historic compromise which has left many farmers in New South Wales, literally, high and dry in pursuit of environmental objectives and demands from South Australia.

‘‘It remains far from perfect, and there are elements which should be amended if it is to achieve the environmental outcomes it was established to deliver.

‘‘The Murray-Darling Basin Plan has reduced the amount of water available for irrigation across the basin.

‘‘Those in the city need to understand that for food to appear in their local greengrocer or supermarket, it needs to be grown on a farm with water. Take away the water and you take away the produce.’’