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National Irrigator's Council - Media Release

13 October 2022

MinCo October Outcomes
The Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MinCo) meeting agreed to discuss a forward work plan, while hinting at timeline extensions for finalising the Basin Plan.
NIC Chief Executive Officer Isaac Jeffrey said: “It was great to hear of the good will and cooperation between Ministers at MinCo. Water is too important to become a political football, so this collaboration is encouraging.
“Unfortunately, Ministers were not able to come to an agreement on how to finalise the Basin Plan, including whether States will be given more time to finish their Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism projects. Minister Plibersek mentioned on multiple occasions the timelines are challenging. I agree, but I would go one step further and say timeframes are improbable at best for several projects.
“Ministers did agree to States bringing proposed work plans forward for discussion at the next meeting in February. The most sensible outcome is to allow States a limited time extension to get their projects done or to add new projects and deliver on their promises to irrigation communities, so we look forward to getting that certainty in February – if the meeting is not affected by the New South Wales election.”
The Federal Minister for the Environment and Water was questioned following the meeting on the 450GL Efficiency Measures program and buybacks.
“Minister Plibersek said she didn’t want to make threats after a positive meeting, but noted her view that ‘voluntary buybacks in a strategic way can be very beneficial’,” Mr Jeffrey said.
“All options should be on the table and considered to deliver environmental outcomes, such as complementary measures. We should be focused on outcomes, not volumes. Buybacks have devastated industries and regional communities in the past, and they should be avoided in the future.
“The Minister was also asked about her commitment to the socio-economic clauses of the 450 GL Efficiency Measures program and said ‘I think any government worth its weight will always take into account the social impacts and the economic impacts…’. I couldn’t agree more. I would add that social and economic sciences and analyses should be added to environmental science during the Outlook, Evaluation and Review stages of the upcoming Basin Plan Review. This addition would ensure the effects on people and on our economy are thoroughly considered, alongside the environment, to ensure we get the balance right.
“NIC has long called for more transparency from MinCo and I congratulate Ministers for publishing the agenda and communique, as well as media releases from Ministers and a press conference by the Federal Minister. Discussions and decisions made during these meetings are vitally important, so it is good to see Ministers showing some accountability.”
Media Contact: Isaac Jeffrey 0407 083 890 [email protected]