March 2018 Presidents Report

Griffith Business Chamber has been buoyed by the strong support from Member for Farrer Sussan Ley on issues around water policy.

Chamber president Paul Pierotti met with Ms Ley this week to discuss aspects of the controversial Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The meeting came less than a week after the Australian Senate, thanks to votes of the Greens and Labor, supported a disallowance motion which has thrown the Basin Plan into chaos.

Ms Ley has supported the subsequent stance from Mr Blair and Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville to withdraw from the plan.

Mr Pierotti said Ms Ley also strongly opposes removing the additional 450 gigalitres of ‘upwater’ from productive use, as more evidence comes to light that it cannot be achieved without adverse social and economic impacts.

“Former Water Minister Tony Burke enshrined in legislation an absolute commitment that the 450 would not be delivered if there were negative impacts. It’s clear that this is impossible, so we’re astounded that Tony Burke continues to insist the 450 should be recovered.

“We are delighted Ms Ley is taking a more realistic and common-sense approach,” Mr Pierotti said.

He said the strong stance taken by Ms Ley and NSW Water Minister Niall Blair in taking steps to withdraw from the plan have sent a strong message that it is not working and needs review.

Pierotti suggested a federal Royal Commission should be called, with terms of reference to include a review of the 31 recommendations from the 2016 Senate Inquiry report into the Basin Plan.

He has also supported calls for a five or 10 year moratorium on water acquisition in the Murray-Darling Basin to allow for a full evaluation of how much water is needed for the environment.

“It would provide an opportunity to assess the benefits of environmental water already acquired and allow time to confirm what volumes can actually be delivered downstream without creating havoc to adjoining communities. A moratorium would help us achieve the most effective use of our most precious resource.

“We cannot just walk away from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan because 2100 gigalitres have already been taken from food and fibre production and are now sitting in environmental ‘buckets’.

“What we must do is ensure that water is effectively used and managed for maximum environmental benefit, and to achieve the ‘triple bottom line’ of social, economic and environmental outcomes that were promised under the Basin Plan,” Mr Pierotti said.

He added a moratorium would also provide an opportunity for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to develop realistic environmental water targets and with the use of MER (monitoring, evaluation and reporting) demonstrate the benefits from the environmental water at their disposal.

Mr Pierotti encouraged the MDBA to support legislative changes that introduce a moratorium on acquiring more water through either buybacks or efficiency measures.

“During this time metering standards across the entire system can be brought into line with those that already exist in the Murray region, and more serious consideration can be given to installing Lock Zero which will help solve ‘end of system’ issues.

“It is pointless acquiring more environmental water when we do not know how much is actually needed or its benefits, let alone what solutions are required to improve the health of the Coorong and Lower Lakes,” Mr Pierotti said.