Ricegrowers' Association of Australia president, Jeremy Morton, has stated that a moratorium on further horticultural developments in the southern Murray-Darling Basin would only be a band-aid. The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) and Almond Board of Australia (ABA) have both called for limits on further agricultural developments along the Murray River.
But Mr Morton said it was unlikely the states would agree to a moratorium, as they all issued licences independently. "You are not going to see one state put its hand up and say, 'that's it' if another one doesn't," Mr Morton said. He said a moratorium was a band-aid measure, as it only put a temporary brake on development. "There needs to be a more coordinated and well thought out response, but it's too late in many respects. The issue we now have is development beyond the capacity of the system, to either potentially meet the daily demand for water or the overall supply to meet the requirements of various crops."
The Almond Board has called for a moratorium on new water use licences. ABA chief executive officer Ross Skinner said the ongoing issuing of licences was leading to a situation where water may not be delivered with the required surety. "Each state and region wants development in their area, but the capacity to move water along the rivers is limited and unlimited expansion could jeopardise surety of supply to existing growers.
VFF Water Council chair Richard Anderson said Basin state governments - Victoria, NSW and SA - in coordination with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), should impose a moratorium on new developments in the Mallee.
The moratorium should only be lifted, following a review of the river's capacity to meet increasing irrigation demands.
"The growing horticultural industry downstream of the Barmah Choke is changing irrigation demand patterns and increasing the risk of water delivery shortfalls," Mr Anderson said.