Ricegrowers challenge EY

The mouth of the Murray River. Photo courtesy South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

The Australian Ricegrowers Association has released a scathing assessment of Earnest and Young’s report into the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

According to a statement, the association have called for a commitment from all governments that “they will abandon any recovery of the 450GL through efficiency measures from productively held water because the EY report makes it abundantly clear that negative social and economic impacts are inevitable”.

“Why would any Government proceed with this additional recovery when it clearly has negative social and economic impacts? Political expediency ahead of people is completely unacceptable,” Jeremy Morton, President of the RGA said.

Currently the Murray Darling Basin Authority still plans to remove 450GL of water from the Murray-Darling River to “flush out” the mouth of the Murray in South Australia.

“Natural flooding during 2016 highlighted that no amount of constraint removal will allow flow targets to be achieved without unacceptable flooding impact. The 450GL recovery will be a social and economic disaster with limited environmental benefit. It fails at every hurdle,” said Mr Morton.

According to the ARA statement, “the EY report does highlight opportunities for efficiency recovery from urban held entitlement and as the recommended SDL adjustment of 605GL requires 62GL of efficiency water to be recovered the RGA insists that this be recovered from urban held entitlement”.

“We often hear strong views about improving river health from those living in urban communities so RGA is sure they would relish the opportunity to contribute towards achieving those shared environmental objectives,” Mr Morton concluded.

Examinations of water buybacks in Northern NSW found that the economic impacts have been severe, with towns such as Collarenebri losing up to 21 per cent of their employment.

South Australia’s politicians have been extremely vocal about the need for greater environmental flows to the mouth of the Murray River, ideally to keep the mouth of the Murray River open.

Agitation for such flows reached a height during the millennium drought, as the Lower Lakes near the mouth of the Murray began to dry up.

However, biologist Jennifer Marohasy, backed by irrigators, has pointed out the presence of five barrages, completed in 1940, which prevent the onset of saltwater into the traditionally estuarine Lower Lakes.

These barrages, according to Marohasy, have a direct and radical effect on the mouth of the Murray, and Marohasy has called for their removal in order to restore the Murray mouth to its traditional estuarine state.

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