MDBA socio-economic report released

Compiled by Dominic Geiger

The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has recently released a report into how last year’s guide basin plan would have affected the socio-economic situations of communities if it had been implemented without review.

The report, which the MDBA describes as an “interesting retrospective on what would have been the impact of the guide on basin communities”, shows the guide could have put many irrigation dependent communities throughout the basin at risk.

A spokesperson for the MDBA said the report has allowed the organisation to provide a balanced starting point from which to approach water reform in the forthcoming Draft Basin Plan, which is due to be released later this month.

“I want to assure communities that although the report’s only just come out, the consultants worked closely with the Authority over the past few months to update us on their findings so that we could feed this information into our work on the draft.”

Among the at risk communities identified in the report are the Lachlan Shire towns of Condobolin and Lake Cargelligo.

According to the report, “[the two] towns are totally dependent on irrigated agriculture [and] there is a strong concern that reduced irrigation in the catchment will see [significant] population decline.”

“The remaining population will, to a large extent, be dependent on government support resulting in a significant level of disadvantage in the towns,” the report said.

NSW Farmers Association CEO, Matt Brand, said the report confirms the results of the Association’s own survey of basin residents.

“Our survey found one in every three farmers surveyed believe the Draft Plan could force them to exit agriculture, potentially closing the door on generations of farming history,” he said.

The Association also said it questioned how effective the report would be given the draft basin plan was due to be released at the end of this month.

“How can the community be confident the Authority will have the time to consider the findings of this report when it’s been released at the eleventh hour?” Mr Brand said.

“NSW Farmers is calling on the MDBA to heed the warnings of its own research, and work toward delivering a plan that will protect the social fabric of the Basin.

“Basin communities need a Plan that is flexible enough to adjust allocations – to farmers and the environment; to seasonal conditions.”

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