Murray Darling Association conference report

The Basin Plan – Have Your Say

The 66th National Conference and AGM of the Murray Darling Association, staged at Beechworth in Victoria on 9 to 11 September 2010, concluded with some very specific outcomes and key messages.

The Conference was officially opened by the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Joe Helper MP, where he was able to outline the expectations of his State in regards to the proposed Basin Plan Guide now postponed till 8 October 2010.

Murray Darling Association National President Ken Rogers said that this year the 150 delegates, were unanimous on many issues.

The main points to come out of the conference included:

  • Bring all state agreements into line; that is one date should be set for the completion of all of the State’s Water Resource Management Plans, citing that the five year differential between Victoria and ther basin States is unworkable.
  • Ensure that regional development within the Murray Darling Basin is an appropriate way to manage population growth to take pressure off our cities.
  • Fast track works from all plans and studies carried out to improve the efficiency of the Menindee Lakes Scheme and provide water supply security for Broken Hill.
  • Lobby basin States and the Federal Government to enable the Snowy Hydro Authority to proceed immediately to a fully commercial and operational cloud seeding program over the entire Snowy Mountains and the Victorian Alps.

“While storages and water sharing did improve slightly for some sectors in 2009/2010, we are experiencing an improvement in storage capacities across most of the basin,” Ken Rogers said.

“2010/2011 will provide some relief for many of our farming communities, to whom water is the one factor that dictates the healthy balance between successful productivity while also providing some relief to the environmental assets that we generally agree need to be protected where possible.

“This drought is not fully past us, but with the immanent release of the Basin Plan and with the scientific debate about climate change, we must be alert to a potential of continuing decline in water sources, to balance the socio economic needs of our basin communities and agree to a better share of that resource to the environment.”

Speakers at the conference included Dr Ben Gawne, Director of the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre; Professor Lin Crase, Applied Economics at La Trobe University; David Harris, Commissioner NSW Office of Water; Dawn Fardell MP, independent member for NSW in Dubbo; Associate Professor Peter Waterman, University of the Sunshine Coast Qld; Dr Tony Mcleod, General Manager Water Planning Murray Darling Basin Authority; and Richard Anderson Chairman of the Victorian Farmers Federation.

They provided a comprehensive range of discussion points that gave all conference delegates some objective arguments that helped to frame how we should deal with the proposed reductions in the diversion limits to what is considered to be sustainable.

The second day was officially opened by Anita Roper, CEO Sustainability Victoria, who urged the Federal Government to consider the need for strict management rules on environmental allocations as will be dictated to the irrigation communities that we rely on for our food production.

Shane Bilisch from Snowy Hydro provided a summary of the research results of six years of trials that were independently checked and showed a 14 per cent improvement in the snow pack.

Beechworth was a fitting place for this year’s conference given that local flooding in northern Victoria was producing some excellent inflows into the Hume and Dartmouth storages and that the recent floods affecting communities to the west proved to be more of a benefit to catchments than that of a damaging nature to property and possessions.

For more information on this event and matters connected to the Murray Darling Basin, please contact Ray Najar on
0408 502 393.