The Victorian Farmers Federation has accepted a plan to develop a socio-economic assessment on the impact of the Murray Darling Basin Plan on southern basin communities, agreed upon at a meeting of Basin Ministers in Mildura.
In a proposal that will be presented at the next Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in June 2017, the study will analyse supply measures to offset the Basin Plan water recovery target of 2,750 gigalitres (GL) by 2019 and potential socio-economic impacts of efficiency measures to recover an additional 450GL by 2024.
“We’re pleased to see the study will go beyond the requirements of the legislation in assessing the socio-economic neutrality of the efficiency measures,” VFF President David Jochinke said.
“It must assess the impact on communities, businesses, and other rural enterprises, but we’ve always said it would be impossible to deliver an additional 450GL in upwater savings without any negative impacts to Basin communities.”
Mr Jochinke said the new analysis must show in full detail the damage water recovery has had not just on Victorian farmers, but rural and regional towns and communities.
“There have been several studies already, such as the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Leadership report and the Victorian Government’s socio-economic study, which have all shown the negative impacts of water recovery,” he said.
The farmer group also welcomed an agreement to recover the remaining 650GL in the Basin Plan without resorting to further water buybacks.
Mr Jochinke said the VFF would continue working with the State Government to ensure Victorian irrigation communities were not affected by the Basin Plan recovery targets.
“It’s great to see the state governments agree that the best approach is to focus on getting positive outcomes for communities, rather than simply recovery targets,” he said.
“We need to remember that at the heart of this issue are families, livelihoods, and whole communities, not just numbers.”
The independent analysis of efficiency measures is due to be handed down in December 2017.