The MDBA’s report on recovering additional environmental water is incomplete and gives no answers on whether this approach is feasible.
As the modelling is only of the environmental effects it is deficient because it fails to take clearly into account the socio-economic effects of recovering more water.
It is hard to judge what a three- piece suit looks like on somebody when all they are wearing is the vest. The total picture of the 3200 GL (on top of the 823 GL that was returned to the system before 2009) can only be summarised when we take into account both the benefits and the costs.
The extra costs will include the impact on the prices of houses, the future of businesses and the social fabric of the 2.1 million people who live in the basin proximate to where this water will be taken from.
Constraints in the system are real. Ignoring them will flood real people’s land and real bridges and roads. (The) report provides no answers on how these constraints might be removed or overcome. The MDBA admits this itself by saying that:
Undertaking detailed assessments and analysis to identify whether any of the constraints tested in this study could actually be relaxed was not within the scope of this report (p. xiii).
Nor does the report estimate how much removing constraints would cost and whether these costs are greater than the environmental benefits identified.
The Coalition stands ready to support a Murray-Darling Basin Plan but only one based on a triple bottom line, with an equal consideration of economic, social and environmental factors.
Just like with investments such as the NBN, the Coalition will only support projects which pass a cost-benefit analysis, and this report doesn’t even come close to being one.