The Murray-Darling Basin Authority needs to follow the lead of farmers who have organised over a million acres of flood easements to enable increased environmental flows, according to environment group Friends of the Earth.
In its Draft Basin Plan, the Authority claimed "operating constraints" such as the need to avoid flooding private land will prevent the delivery of any more than 2,750 GL of additional environmental flows, leading to the permanent decline of Ramsar wetlands such as the Chowilla Floodplain.
In response, the Australian Floodplain Association announced today that farmers in ten of the Basin's twenty three rivers have pledged almost a million acres of flood easements to enable increased flows.
"The MDBA ran up the white flag on this issue, apparently deciding it was easier to sacrifice swathes of Ramsar wetlands in South Australia than talk to a few upstream farmers about allowing floodwaters across their land," said Friends of the Earth Murray-Darling Campaigner, Jonathan La Nauze
"Now in a few short weeks a voluntary community organisation has made a million-acre dint in the problem. Just imagine what could be achieved if we applied the fully resources of state and commonwealth governments.
"This case busts open the myth that there's only one kind of farmer out there. 69% of farmers in the Basin are not irrigators and they account for almost two-thirds of its agricultural output. Many of them are only too willing to facilitate an increase in environmental flows, because it is in their interest and the interest of basin communities.
"In opposing environmental flows, the irrigation lobby is clearly not acting in the interests of the majority of basin farmers.
"If we don't think innovatively about how to get more water onto the floodplain, we will be in breach of our international obligations to maintain listed wetlands such as the Chowilla Floodplain.
"It has taken some gutsy and generous farmers to show the way forward, and now it is up to government's to follow their lead."
Jonathan La Nauze 0402 904 251