Extending basin plan deadlines not an option, says Pitt

By Alana Christensen

Extending Murray-Darling Basin Plan timelines would only drive uncertainty, according to Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt who has urged states to "pull out all the stops" to reach the 2024 deadline for the plan.

Addressing the Murray-Darling Association's annual conference, Mr Pitt said despite offset projects to deliver 605 Gl of savings and water recovery to deliver 450 Gl of ‘up-water’ running behind schedule, the 2024 deadline remained.

“Our view is that blowing out time frames just extends uncertainty,” he told the online conference on Wednesday morning.

“We need to pull out all the stops.”

He said with four years to run on the basin plan there was plenty of time remaining, but he urged basin states and communities to band together.

“Unfortunately water policy has descended into an argument of who holds what water,” he said.

“It needs to be a partnership, not a philosophical battleground.

“There is more all governments can do to build trust, accountability and transparency.”

Mr Pitt recently reaffirmed the Federal Government's commitment that no buybacks would be undertaken to reach the 450 Gl target, with the focus on off-farm projects.

In addressing concerns about the health of the Barmah Choke, which has experienced high unseasonal flows due to downstream demand, Mr Pitt said options were being explored.

“I don't see the purpose of not managing it and ending up with bank collapses and water running into the forest at inopportune times,” he said.

“Recommendations are coming.”