Basin plan ‘a shambles’ for irrigators

PEEL WATER WOES

THE water torture inflicted upon more than 1000 local irrigators could continue for years yet despite the NSW government signing up to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) this week.

Premier Barry O’Farrell and his deputy Andrew Stoner travelled to Canberra to formalise the state’s support for the controversial $13 billion plan on Thursday.

Under the agreement, basin-wide water buybacks will be capped at 1500 gigalitres and NSW gets a further $80 million for infrastructure and management programs.

But, according to Peel Valley Water Users Association president Ildu Monticone, irrigators in the Peel and Namoi valleys still face a lengthy wait to learn how they will be impacted.

Mr Monticone said the entire process had been a “shambles” for the Peel Valley’s 200 licence holders, given about 95 per cent of the water already went to the environment and downstream users.

“The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a long, sad and sorry tale – at least for Peel irrigators,” he said.

“The reason why whatever was signed the other day has no impact is that 

we won’t know until the end of 2015 how much water – if any – will be recovered from the Peel.

“After the MDBP has been written and signed-off and everything else, the Northern Basin Advisory Committee are working out how much water needs to be recovered from each valley in the north of the state.”

Mr Morticone, a Dungowan irrigator, said the uncertainty surrounding the final impost on irrigators could drive down property values.

“The real impact is on the value of the properties because people buying a property today could find they have less water at the end of 2015,” he said.

“Anybody who’s aware of this problem would be hesitant about buying a place in the Peel, so people are in limbo.”

Mr Stoner said his government had driven “a hard bargain” to protect the interests of the state’s farmers and irrigators.

“By signing the basin agreements, the NSW government will be securing for basin communities throughout NSW an additional $80 million funding over the next eight years, he said.

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