This week’s Murray Darling Basin Royal Commission sitting in Albury heard how the Basin Plan had so far cost one Riverina farming family close to a million dollars.
Deniliquin’s Louise Burge said riparian landholders had been overlooked in the Basin Plan and the Murray Darling Basin Authority has shown little interest in their concerns.
“Our family has and will suffer significant economic loss from the Basin Plan,” she told the Royal Commission, “at this stage we’re up to about three-quarters of a million and that’s not accounting my time over the past seven years.
“We are still ignored by all sides of politics … We are caught in a political sandwich between the Northern Basin protecting its interests, the politics in South Australia and a failure of politicians.
“For seven years I have provided substantial volumes of documentary evidence highlighting errors and incorrect assumptions in the Basin Plan.”
She was among several farmers along the Murray and tributaries who outlined their frustrations at management of the rivers, with the Murray Darling Basin Authority and state governments coming under attack.
Berrigan farmer Graeme Pyle supported Mrs Burge’s claims that political, or self, interest was holding the plan back.
The former Southern Riverina Irrigators chair said installing modern, highly accurate meters would deliver water use transparency – costing a fraction of the $13billion spent on the Basin Plan – and was stunned by a reluctance to adopt the technology.
“If water usage is accounted for properly it would go along way to fixing everything,” Mr Pyle said.
“Some element of fairness might creep in, that’s what it’s all about and it’s pretty hard to argue against properly metered water.
“The metering’s all supposed to be there, it’s been legislated.
“But the Northern Basin doesn’t want to do that.”
Murray River Action Group chair Richard Sargood told the Royal Commission he could not see the Plan delivered without detrimental effects on communities.
“We believe the Basin Plan’s 750GL target is probably unachievable without significant third party impacts,” the Corowa district farmer said.
Commissioner Bret Walker acknowledged the vast differences across the Basin and the challenges faced in making the Basin Plan work.
“It is very different, obviously, the Upper Murray compared to the lower Murray,” Mr Walker said.
“There’s even more difference from the Darling to the Murray … the Basin Plan tries the see the whole system as one system.”