Murray River Group of Councils Media Release - Councils welocme Basin Plan progress

Published on 21 June 2018

The Murray River Group of Councils has hailed the outcomes of the Basin Plan Ministers meeting last Friday as good news for northern Victorian irrigation communities.

Water Ministers met in Canberra to discuss the Basin Plan amid fears that the $12 billion project was close to falling apart, but the agreement that emerged on Friday has seemingly put it back on track.

The Murray River Group of Councils, meeting in Cobram last Thursday, had called on Ministers to guarantee that no more productive water would be recovered from northern Victorian irrigation districts because of the negative impacts it would have on communities in the region.

Chair, Cr Cheryl McKinnon said that overall the Group was pleased with the outcomes of the Ministerial Council meeting: “What Ministers showed on Friday is that they have been listening to our communities.

“The great news here is that there won’t be any more water recovered from on-farm projects in northern Victoria.

“Our communities have been worried that more water would go from our districts. All the independent research has consistently shown you can’t recover more productive water from our farms without it having a negative impact on individuals, on families and on our towns,” said Cr McKinnon.

Cr McKinnon praised Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville for her efforts in helping to secure a commitment from the Ministerial Council to develop a better test, that would ensure neutral or beneficial socio-economic outcomes.

Ministers agreed on Friday that the States and the Commonwealth would develop additional criteria for future water recovery programs that could take into account regional impacts and the cumulative impacts of water recovery on communities.

“We would like to thank Minister Neville for going in to bat for our communities on this, because we know that on-farm programs can end up having a negative impact on our region.”
 
Cr McKinnon also said that the Murray River Group was pleased to see Ministers’ commitments to improving transparency and compliance across the Basin.

“The northern Basin issues have been a real concern to people right across the Basin and the health of the Darling is an issue for our member councils. Getting the monitoring right and getting trust back, that’s really important,” said Cr McKinnon.

“Overall, it’s a relief to see progress on the Basin Plan. There is still a long way to go but things are on a better track now. We have always said we want a balanced Basin Plan and it’s great to see Ministers listening to our communities; this is the key to the Basin Plan achieving a vision of balance of river health and prosperous regional communities.”

The Murray River Group of Councils comprises six councils in northern Victoria, Mildura and Swan Hill Rural City Councils and Loddon, Gannawarra, Campaspe and Moira Shires.