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Published: 22 February 2018   •   Media release

A series of community profiles released by the MDBA show socio-economic trends across Basin communities, with the Basin Plan just one of a number of factors contributing to social and economic change.

MDBA Chief Executive, Phillip Glyde, said the MDBA had compiled the latest ABS data alongside water recovery data for 45 communities in the Southern Basin as part of its work to understand the social and economic impacts of the Basin Plan on local communities.

"These community profiles are an important input to our examination of the socio-economic effects of the Basin Plan, which is a component of the Basin Plan Evaluation—however, they do not yet capture the full story, and need to be interpreted with care," Mr Glyde said.

"The profiles illustrate socio-economic trends in Basin communities over the past 15 years—but it is particularly important to understand that the Basin Plan is just one of many factors feeding into the social and economic changes shown in the data, and that these changes cannot simply be attributed to the Basin Plan.

"What we are seeing is that many Basin communities are experiencing similar socio-economic trends—regardless of the amount of water recovery in those communities.

"These are trends that are reflected across both irrigation–dependent and non–irrigation dependent communities in the Basin.

"However, there are some communities where water recovery seems to have played a greater role in social and economic change.

"We are also seeing some communities showing significant decreases in employment in agriculture although there has been only a very small net amount of water recovery; while others remain comparatively resilient despite significant volumes of water recovery.

"This indicates that not only is the Basin Plan just one of a number of factors behind social and economic change—but in many communities it may not be the most significant factor.

"We are currently undertaking work to better understand how and why this is the case, and to look at the scale and timing of the changes—work which we aim to release in April 2018. We are releasing these profiles now to give people the opportunity to examine the data for themselves, and so we can be confident about the data we are using to inform our socio-economic analysis.

"In considering this data, it is also worth noting that, although there are some communities that have been experiencing hardship, during the past five years the Basin economy as a whole has continued to grow.

"Even with Basin Plan water recovery, and earlier recovery of water for the environment prior to the Basin Plan, the value of irrigated agriculture in the Basin has remained steady. This is due to productivity improvements—including as a result of infrastructure investment under the Basin Plan—as well as changes to the mix of crops grown and changes in commodity prices.

"The Basin Plan is also integral to securing a sustainable future for the unique natural assets that play a vital role in supporting industries other than agriculture.

"For example, tourism in the Basin is now worth around $7.5 billion—with expenditure by overnight visitors to the Basin having increased by $1.8 billion over the past five years.

"Spending on recreational fishing is also estimated to be worth around $1 billion dollars each year, generating 10,000 jobs.

"The MDBA will continue to focus is on optimising the social, economic and environmental outcomes of the Basin Plan."

The Basin Plan Evaluation community profiles are available at mdba.gov.au/basin-plan-roll-out/monitoring-evaluation/water-recovery-southern-basin.

ENDS

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