Irrigators have been stunned to hear incoming Federal Water Resources Minister David Littleproud commit to returning the 450Gl of ‘‘up-water’’ to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
His predecessor Barnaby Joyce had been cautioning that the extra water might not be delivered because of the socio-economic impacts it could cause.
‘‘We’ve made the decision to support the plan and that’s part of the plan,’’ Mr Littleproud said in a media interview.
‘‘I don’t think anyone should say we’re going to blow up the building. We’ve got a plan, let’s work collaboratively to achieve that.’’
The issue of the 450Gl was fiercely debated at the recent meeting of government water ministers, called MINCO, but neither Mr Joyce nor Mr Littleproud attended.
In the newspaper interview, Mr Littleproud concentrated on saying there were ways of achieving a good outcome for the Murray-Darling Basin which would satisfy most people.
He also called for calm from all parties.
Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley said ‘‘no action’’ would come from Mr Littleproud’s statements.
Ms Ley said while she could not say why Mr Littleproud made the comments, she said it would have no bearing on policy which prevented the additional water being recovered without surety of no further impacts.
She also said she would fight any push to have the additional 450Gl put into play.
‘‘Upsetting though the minister’s comments would have been, there has not been a change in policy,’’ Ms Ley said.
‘‘There are rules surrounding the introduction of this additional 450Gl of water and it can only be delivered if there are no social or economic impacts.’’
In the past, Mr Littleproud has been critical of ‘‘aggressive water buy-backs’’ which he said had hit his irrigation-reliant region hard and shattered business confidence.
‘‘Gigalitres represent jobs and community longevity in rural Queensland,’’ he had said.
Mr Littleproud had also slammed the failure of the Queensland water minister to attend a basin water ministers’ meeting 12 months ago.
Victorian irrigators have been critical of the failure of Mr Littleproud, or Mr Joyce, to attend the recent Minco meeting.