Basin plan discussed at Murray Dairy meeting

By Sophie Baldwin

The first Murray Dairy agronomy network meeting was held in Echuca recently, with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, water policy and water use on the agenda.

Among the guest speakers were Claire Miller from Claire Miller Consulting.

Ms Miller has been following the progress of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan from the beginning, and while she thinks the potential and principles of the plan are correct, she says implementation has been far from it.

“We are 10 years down the track and we need to look at what has happened and review and look at some adaptive management,” Ms Miller said.

“It was never going to be the case the MDBA would get everything right when it is such a huge and comprehensive plan that covers environmental management, water trade and social and economic issues.”

Ms Miller said there were some serious issues emerging, including socio-economic impacts in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District that can no longer be shrugged away.

She also said unforeseen issues around delivering and shifting environmental water need to be addressed.

“Location, timing, volume and demand below the Barmah Choke has left the river system upstream struggling and causing environmental issues.”

Ms Miller said at some point the Murray-Darling Basin Authority must accept the 450 Gl isn't going to happen, as the voluntary uptake has been tiny so far and people have realised the importance of hanging on to what water they have.

“They are struggling to deliver 2100 Gl of environmental water they already have.

“If they add 450 Gl that means they will need to undertake more than 3000 voluntary landholder flood easements.”

Ms Miller said the current drought had been a bit like a "stress test" and had illustrated severe social and economic challenges.

She also said while there had been some positive environmental outcomes, the flip side was delivering the water was causing environmental damage in other areas.

“It should be a good reform and it has great potential.

“It just needs to be acknowledged what's working and what's not, and politics, dogma and bureaucratic inertia need to be kept out of it.”