The Macquarie Valley has returned “more than its fair share of water” under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, according to Michael Egan.
The Macquarie River Food and Fibre (MRFF) chairman was speaking after the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) launched a series of community consultation meetings in Warren on Wednesday.
The MDBA has reviewed the socioeconomic impact of the basin plan on southern Queensland and northern NSW communities. It is proposing a reduced target of 320 gigalites (GL) down from 390GL for the northern basin. The recovery target for the Macquarie-Castlereagh would fall by 10GL to 55GL.
Mr Egan said the “initial basin plan documentation” proposed a water recovery target in the Macquarie of 20GL. “However when the basin plan was launched in 2012 this figure more than tripled to 65GL,” he said. Under the basin plan 83GL of water has already been recovered in the Macquarie Valley with the MDBA finding a resulting drop in employment of 11 per cent at Warren and up to 4 per cent at Narromine and Trangie,
“The impact of water taken out of production has been significant in the valley,” Mr Egan said. “The purchase of Twynam in 2009, which was the powerhouse of employment in the Warren Shire, had an immediate impact and we have been on the back foot ever since. “To make things worse the Macquarie’s recovery target is based on water that was purchased prior to the plan being legislated and the MDBA have never determined the amount of water they actually need to meet their environmental targets.”
Mr Egan said there was “still a long way to go”. “The Macquarie Valley has returned more than its fair share of water under the basin plan, helping to achieve a range of environmental outcomes, and the proposed amendments to the plan will still fail to achieve a triple bottom line balance of social, economic and environmental outcomes,” he said.
The MDBA will accept submissions on the proposed basin plan amendments until February 10. About 80 people attended the meeting in Warren, including farmers, business people, graziers, government and Indigenous representatives.
MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde considers the proposed amendments to strike a “sensible” balance between social, economic and environmental interests. “Reducing the water recovery target from 390 GL to 320 GL in the north will save about 200 jobs in irrigation-dependent communities while continuing to deliver about the same level of environmental outcomes,” he said.
Environmental groups are fearful of the proposed amendments impact on downstream communities.