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Floodplain favour

Wednesday, 28th December, 2011

By Paula Doran

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has received a Christmas bonus from landholders in NSW.

Australian Floodplain Graziers have banded together to pledge more than one million acres of voluntary floodplain easements to the Authority to deliver environmental flows.

Led by Tilpa grazier, and president of the Australian Flooplain Association, Mark Etheridge, floodplain easements give governments the legal right to flood the graziers’ land for environmental flows.

“We want our properties to flood more naturally. Natural flooding restores life into our land and rivers. The last drought was much worse because too much water had been taken from our rivers for too long,” said Mr Etheridge.

“The MDBA reduced the amount of water planned to restore the health of the Murray-Darling rivers and wetlands because they are worried about flooding liability.

“It’s time to get on with the job of giving some water back to our rivers and floodplains, so they can be healthy.”

Chairman of the Murray-Darling Wetlands, Howard Jones, said the gesture on the floodplains was the biggest step by any group in the country towards working with the MDBA for the health of the river system.

“Farmers who have watched areas decline in health and production over many years want to be part of the solution,” Mr Jones said.

“For the past ten years many good farmers have worked hard to try and protect their floodplains and  wetlands, and ensure that when the floods came they could breathe life back into our community. I have been very concerned that this last drought was it for many areas, and many species.

“The wrong message is getting out on the Basin Plan - there are irrigation groups that are perpetuating mistruths because they want to protect their own jobs and their own companies.

 “But this from the floodplains is a perfectly genuine attempt to engage with the MDBA.

“The Basin Plan is something that we really, really need. If we miss out now, it would be a terrible tragedy in my opinion.

“The numbers in the Plan are inconsequential at this stage...we need to use the legislation behind the Plan as an opportunity for discussion...we’ve got seven years to get the numbers right.

“We all need to work together to get good outcomes for our rivers and wetlands, and overcome apparent constraints proactively and sensibly.”

Law firm Baker McKenzie will prepare a voluntary flood easement and advice for graziers to give effect to their pledge as part of a pro bono package for the Australian Floodplain Association. 

Craig Knowles, Chairman of MDBA, congratulated the Association and the Murray-Darling Wetlands for their united approach.  

“This is exciting stuff,” Mr Knowles told the BDT yesterday.

“This type of action is exactly what the Authority is encouraging through its call for localism and also the 2015 review.”  

Mr Knowles said he would meet with the two groups in the New Year to discuss the complexities of the offer.  

“As with most issues in the Basin this is a complex proposition and there are areas of detail that we need to address; issues such as to what extent this approach helps to address some of the constraints to delivering increased water flows down the Murray-Darling system. I want our technical experts to work through that. 

“If this approach delivers what it says it can deliver then it has the potential to provide a model for other local groups and individuals to work together,” said Mr Knowles.

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