Irrigator expects little from basin plan

Forbes farmer Robert Caldwell plans to be at Town Hall next Monday to learn more about the draft Murray Darling Basin Plan.

The Murray Darling Basin Authority has announced it will hold an ‘open house’ at Forbes Town Hall on Monday afternoon (3.30pm – 5pm), where staff from the MDBA and other government departments will be available to talk to local stakeholders.

Mr Caldwell, who is an irrigation farmer east of Forbes (his property is near Peyton’s Bridge over the Lachlan), this week sent off his submission to the plan’s authors, the Murray Darling Basin Authority.

In his second submission to the MDBA, Mr Caldwell says he has no faith in the draft basin plan’s stated objective to set water aside for the environmental recovery of the Murray Darling Basin.

He believes the plan will take too much water out of agriculture and horticultural production and not deliver any of the irrigation efficiencies the Federal Government’s water purchases are supposed to achieve.

Mr Caldwell said irrigators are getting a ‘raw deal’ on the basin plan, and farmers’ rights to reasonable use of water are being slowly dissolved by water reform.

He believes the plan will result in a large reduction in irrigation farming.

“I think half the irrigation farms will disappear,” he said this week.

Mr Caldwell said he has little faith that the O’Farrell NSW Coalition Government would do much to oppose the Federal Labor Government’s plan for the basin.

“I think the O’Farrell / Hodgkinson Government hold the ‘whip hand’ and should reject the reductions on behalf of New South Wales… Labor governments seem to ram through changes without compensation [for primary producers] and the Liberals / Nationals seem unwilling or unable to reverse the damage,” he said.

Mr Caldwell said he doesn’t accept the scientific basis underlining the draft Basin Plan, particularly the water that the South Australian Government says is required to maintain the health of the lower Murray River.

“South Australia is claiming more than their fair share of water,” he said.

“They should remove the barrages [from the lower Murray] and return the estuary to its natural state. This would reduce the need to top up the Lower Lakes with 2,000,0000 ML a year of fresh water in time of drought.”

Mr Caldwell has already written one submission to the MDBA, when it released the guide to the draft plan last year, and hopes his thoughts are taken seriously.

“I am sure my submission will be ignored by the MDBA, but it may be of value to the NSW Government, to Forbes Shire Council and to fellow irrigators,” he said.

The Murray Darling Basin Authority will hold an ‘open house’ at Forbes Town Hall from 3.30pm to 5pm next Monday, March 19.

Those intending to attend are advised to check the MDBA website ( for any updates on the meeting, due to the flooding of the Lachlan.

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