Visit to Southern Basin by the Water Minister – The Hon Keith Pitt.
1st March 2021
The RGA welcomed the opportunity to have face to face meetings in our region with the Hon Keith Pitt, Federal Water Minister, Member for Farrar, The Hon Sussan Ley and Senator Perin Davey this week.
Rob Massina, RGA President said that “we chose to focus on three main points in the limited time with the Minister, which was ‘underuse’, River Murray deliverability and reduced basin inflows.”
The topic of ‘underuse’ culminated from a report commissioned by the rice industry in 2020, to better understand the erosion of General Security reliability and yield. An outcome from that report led to the Water Ministers predecessor instructing the MDBA to further investigate and work with the rice industry and other stakeholders to get to the bottom of the problem.
In response, The MDBA’s recently released ‘Trends in Water Use report’ highlights that from 2012 – 2019 water extractions in the Southern Murray Darling Basin were less than the Basin Plan’s Sustainable Diversion Limit by an average of 375 gigalitres per year.
The reason for the underuse is a combination of policy changes, more conservative irrigator behaviour (often driven by policy change) and the changes to river management, including the introduction of environmental entitlements and trend of water use moving downstream.
On the topic of deliverability, the RGA highlighted the issue of increasing losses. This additional water is redirected from NSW Murray General Security water allocation, reducing overall allocations. We pointed out the risk of this worsening into the future with the maturing of many of the downstream permanent plantings, and in particular if the Inter Valley Trading (IVT) accounts reach capacity, therefore placing increased pressure on the Murray River to deliver, when it is physically not possible.
The Minister also took on board our request to work towards improving the system for Allocation Announcements. The RGA believes the MDBA should report regularly on the sharing of water between the three States that benefit from the Murray River system, as recommended in the Keelty report. Improvements need to include State and government agencies working together on a plan to shift to a more timely allocation announcement system. “Ideally the rice industry would like to see a system of real time allocation announcements.” Said Mr. Massina
Mr. Massina said he was encouraged by the response to our points raised and said that it was important to now follow up on these to ensure an outcome.