The future for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan looks grim, after South Australia delivered its threat to refuse to co-operate if it didn’t get its way.
South Australia is refusing to support water savings projects unless it gets a guarantee that 450Gl more water will be transferred from consumptive use to the environment.
Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville described the move as trying to hold the other states hostage with blackmail.
‘‘We also received a report that made it very clear that we cannot deliver that 450Gl without significant impact on farmers and on our irrigation districts,’’ she said.
Ms Neville said South Australia’s attitude was threatening the progress of the basin plan.
Goulburn Valley water industry leaders and State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed described the outcome of last week’s meeting of water ministers as disappointing.
Ms Sheed said the Murray-Darling Basin Plan remained in a shambles despite strong efforts by Victorian and NSW water ministers to advocate for a practical way forward for irrigators and the environment.
Ms Sheed said she was disappointed with South Australia for walking away from their previous commitment to the 605Gl of environment offset projects that would prevent the need for further water buybacks.
‘‘South Australia is effectively trying to hold these much-needed projects to ransom in an attempt to get a political win,’’ Ms Sheed said.
‘‘They keep talking about delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full and on time, but what they refuse to admit is that a full plan is a 2750Gl plan.
‘‘Victoria and NSW agreed to provide an additional 450Gl, on top of the full plan, only if there were no negative socio-economic impacts on communities — and, as yet, there is no evidence the water can be recovered without further disastrous results.’’
Ms Sheed wants a judicial inquiry into water theft allegations, but in the absence of such an inquiry, welcomed the announcement of an independent reviewer as a step towards getting a more fulsome understanding of the current state of the plan.
Australian Dairy Industry Council water taskforce chair Daryl Hoey described the outcome of the meeting as ‘‘disappointing’’ but not surprising.
Mr Hoey, who attended a post-meeting press conference, said Mr Hunter made it clear they would not co-operate on the plan and would not support the package of 605Gl of water savings, if they did not get the extra 450Gl.
He said it was clear that while Mr Hunter was unwavering in his demands, Victoria and NSW were just as firm in their resolve.
Southern Riverina Irrigators were concerned the political posturing of the SA Government would undermine upstream communities and put the entire basin plan at risk, SRI chair Gabrielle Coupland said.
Ms Coupland said the outcome of the Ministerial Council meeting was all the more discouraging after she and fellow NSW and Victorian stakeholders unanimously raised concerns about further water recovery at a stakeholder event with ministers the previous night.