The Coalition’s Parliamentary Secretary for Water Simon Birmingham has assured water buy-backs in the Murray-Darling Basin will be capped at 1500 gigalitres.By Zoe McMaugh
Water buy-backs in the Murray-Darling Basin will be capped at 1500 gigalitres.
The Coalition’s Parliamentary Secretary for Water Simon Birmingham gave the assurance on Thursday.
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder’s online records show that 1190GL in water entitlements have already been secured.
The Commonwealth’s minimum goal is to recover 2750GL for the health of the environment, with the possibility of another 450GL.
While the cap announcement has been welcomed by local authorities, they say there is still a lot of work to do before the basin plan and its recommendations are workable.
Murray Group of Concerned Communities chair Bruce Simpson and Wakool Rivers Association chair John Lolicato agree capping the amount obtained through buy-backs is not enough to prevent the impacts on irrigation communities.
They believe the government’s minimum goal of 2750GL still presents very real concerns about flooding because of constraints in delivering the water through the Murray-Darling system.
The buy-backs cap, however, is a welcome first step in the basin plan process, according to Murray Valley Community Action Group chair Lester Wheatley.
Mr Wheatley said the assurance from Mr Birmingham confirms a commitment made by the Federal Coalition before the recent federal election.
‘‘It’s got to be good news,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s great to see the new government has committed to regional communities — it shows they have recognised that buy-backs cause the majority of damage.
‘‘Water recovery through (on-farm) efficiencies, while a more expensive option, is a good thing.
‘‘It (water recovery) is almost at a point where buy-backs will be finished .
Ricegrowers’ Association executive director Ruth Wade said she was pleased the new government had committed to an implementation of the basin plan which balances the needs of regional communities, the environment and the economy.
‘‘From the very beginning we have said that there are better ways to recover water for the environment than buying back irrigation licences.
‘‘This process permanently removes water from productive use which in turn has a negative impact on regional communities who rely on irrigated agriculture.
‘‘Recovering water through irrigation infrastructure upgrades allows farmers to maintain or increase their productive capacity, improve their labour efficiency while at the same time creating water savings which can be used to achieve environmental outcomes.
‘‘It really is a win for both the environment and our communities.”
Despite welcoming what is being hailed as a mostly positive step in regards to the Basin Plan, local irrigator and community groups say there is still some way to go before the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is balanced and workable.
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