Water security linked to regional wellbeing

On 25 March, Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) participated in the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Water Taskforce workshop. The agenda was focused on a discussion about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and its measured social and economic impact on the wellbeing of
people living in the Basin area.

Access to water is important in many ways for the wellbeing of rural and regional Australians. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is Australia’s largest water
reform in recent decades and significantly changes access to water in the Basin. Evaluating the impact of the Basin Plan is complex, particularly separating
out the impacts as a result of the Basin Plan compared to changes that would have occurred anyway.

At the workshop, the NFF Taskforce discussed the work to date in evaluating this impact with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and the Department of the Environment (DoE). In addition, the survey leader of the Regional Wellbeing
Survey – undertaken by the University of Canberra, in collaboration with MDB Futures – shared preliminary findings of the 2014 Regional Wellbeing Survey,
including trends since the 2013 survey,
with the NFF Taskforce.

Among the survey findings, the Plan’s perceived impact on the Basin residents differs depending on whether they are considering the effects on their household,
community, or the Basin as a whole. The survey revealed that of the 34 per cent of the survey respondents with an interest in the Basin area; approximately
55 per cent said the Basin Plan would positively or neutrally affect the health of the environment in the Basin. In comparison, over 45 per cent said
it would negatively impact farmers in the community.

This highlights the need for balance between providing for agricultural production and the environment. It also demonstrates that reforms to water allocation
do have impacts on regional communities. Views about the social, economic and environmental impact vary significantly across different local areas.

Dairy farmer and processor national representative body, the Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) continues to provide input towards the MDBA and DoE’s
monitoring and evaluation of the Basin Plan’s impact. Last year, the ADIC contributed towards the development of the MDBA Evaluation Strategy to ensure
a strong methodology and meaningful evaluation of the intended Basin Plan outcomes.

Dairy farmers have also contributed to case studies carried out in two dairy communities in 2014. Testing the impact of the Basin Plan on farmers, regional
communities and the environment is important to ensure the integrity of the Basin Plan and to inform future reviews and adjustments.

The full Regional Wellbeing Survey will be released in stages throughout 2015. The community wellbeing section is anticipated to be available in May, and the farming section – which
will include data on farm performance, development, barriers and farm exit – is expected to be available in June. The full survey will be available
later in the year.

For more information on monitoring the Basin Plan, click here.

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