Reducing Floodplain Harvesting Could Boost Jobs in Murray Darling Basin: Australia Institute

New research from The Australia Institute has found that significantly reducing floodplain harvesting would have minimal economic impact and could actually increase overall employment across the Basin.

The findings, contained in a submission to the NSW Parliamentary inquiry into floodplain harvesting, show that a reduction in the practice within the cotton-dominated northern basin could increase jobs due to the greater employment in the manufacturing sector and value adding that occurs in the south.

Key Findings:

  • Basin wide, cotton growing and ginning accounts for just 0.59% of employment within the agricultural industry.
  • Cotton accounts for just 5% of jobs in regional centres known for their cotton production.
  • Analysis of Australian Taxation Office data found major cotton processing and producing companies rarely pay significant amounts of company tax.
  • As a result floodplain harvesting could be substantially reduced to a sustainable level with minimal economic impact on employment, supply chain industries and public revenue.

“The environmental, social and legal arguments for a major reduction in floodplain harvesting volumes are already strong, but this research puts forward an additional economic argument,” said Rod Campbell, Research Director at The Australia Institute.

“This research is not intended to demonise any industry, it simply shows that reducing this form of take will not have significant negative consequences and could, in fact, create jobs across the basin.

“Despite floodplain harvesting being perceived as an ‘issue of basin wide concern’ since 1995, the form of take remains unlicensed, unmonitored and unmeasured 25 years on,” Mr Campbell said.

“The facts show floodplain harvesting, in its current form, is illegal and inconsistent with the current legislation. These issues need to be addressed immediately,” said Kate McBride, Anne Kantor Fellow at The Australia Institute.

“The NSW Government’s attempts to license floodplain harvesting have been unsatisfactory, with no attempts to reign in the unstainable level of take or protect downstream communities.

“We recommend reducing floodplain harvesting to a sustainable level and licensing it with the provision that important caveats, such as downstream flow targets, are met,” Ms McBride said.