Australian state governments asked to withdraw from Murray-Darling Basin plan

“Food security here is in jeopardy,” advocates say.

Australia’s food production and food security will be “at risk” if the New South Wales (NSW) and Victorian governments do not withdraw from the controversial Murray-Darling Basin project, community representatives say. warned one.

Jean Beer, head of the Upper Murray River Catchment Association in Victoria, told The Epoch Times that the federal government’s water buyback plan, if pursued, would have far-reaching implications.

Under this plan, water purchased by the federal government from irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin, considered ‘Australia’s Food Bowl’, will be returned to the basin as environmental water.

“It affects our ability to export food, especially [for] Food producers in Victoria and New South Wales [who] We’re already giving up a lot of water for the environment,” Biel told the Epoch Times in a Nov. 11 call.

“When they buy back that water or take more water out of the consumption pool, the irrigators get the last remaining bucket of water for consumption, so food production and food security will have a huge impact. will receive it.”

This follows a statement by the New South Wales Government on 16 November confirming that the state would oppose a “non-strategic buyback” due to the socio-economic impact of the plan on local communities. Thing.

“When it comes to water stewardship, my thinking is healthy rivers, healthy farms and healthy communities, not one or the other,” said Kevin Anderson, NSW Minister for Land and Water. . statement.

Tug of war for water rights

The water buy-back scheme is a controversial part of the 2012 Murray-Darling Basin Plan, in which the federal government “buys back” water rights from farmers, reducing the amount of resources available from the system and allowing the government to Allows you to fill a specific water. Save target.

Environmentalists have tended to advocate buybacks because they can keep more water in the system. Meanwhile, farmers and industry have resisted. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is designed to balance the interests of both.

However, the state governments of Victoria and New South Wales, as well as current federal opposition parties, national agricultural groups such as the National Farmers Federation and the National Irrigation Council, are staunchly opposed to the move.

“The NSW Government has repeatedly called on the Federal Labor Government to exclude the use of water recovery in this way, and a combination of infrastructure improvements, environmental measures and regulatory review will help bring balance to water recovery. has consistently advocated for a smarter approach.” New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment.

The coalition government and the Labor government have been buying back water since 2008.

In 2008, then-Water Minister Penny Wong announced that the federal government would allocate $50 million to purchase water from irrigators. (ABC).

However, there were concerns about unemployment in the local community as the water department chose to purchase the most valuable water. Then, from 2015, direct negotiations between departments and certificate holders were used.

Concerns have surfaced that the federal Labor government may pursue the scheme after the latest budget allocated undisclosed funds to meet the Murray-Darling Basin’s “water conservation targets.”

Beal warned that the price of water to farmers would skyrocket if the federal government entered the market.

“I don’t think people give enough consideration to the fact that food security is at risk here,” said Beale.

She said billions of dollars worth of crops were recently destroyed by severe weather events, including floods.

“And invariably after a great flood there is a very dry period or drought,” she added. “We are a major exporter of food, so we need to grow enough crops to make sure we have enough water to feed ourselves and the rest of the world.”

“That’s the source of Australia’s wealth. So I don’t think the Minister has sat down and considered the full implications of all this.”

Buyback initially ‘under consideration’

Federal Water Minister Tanya Plibersek has previously said a voluntary buyback was “under consideration” in connection with the basin plan, and she also hinted at an extension. She also said her 2024 deadline to efficiently supply 450 gigaliters by June 2024 is “nearly impossible.”

Currently, under watershed planning, 634 gigaliters must be recovered across Australia’s largest river network.

Epoch Times photo
Environment and Water Minister Tanya Privasek at the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday 19 July 2022. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The federal water minister’s office did not respond to Epoch Times questions related to beer concerns, but Privasek told Sky News that some farmers were approaching voluntarily to sell water to the government. Given that, he said water buybacks should be included in the agenda.

“It is very important that the buyback is being considered. We will continue to consider other infrastructure projects to reduce water demand across the Murray-Darling Basin,” said Privasek. sydney morning herald.

“I am sure that when we enter the market for these strategic buybacks, there will be people interested in partnering with governments to make sure water returns to the environment,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Told(ABC).

Plibersek added that her government is looking for a buyback worth the taxpayer’s money.

The water minister also said that even though much of southeast Australia has endured recent floods, access to environmental water will be required as future droughts will strain watershed communities.

She said the environmental water released at the end of the last drought “literally saved the town.”

“To be able to do that when drought hits in the future, we need to meet the goals set out in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan,” said Privasek.

New South Wales and Victoria not participating in water buybacks

The governments of New South Wales and Victoria say they have not agreed to a water buyback plan. ABC.

Victoria’s water minister had previously said that additional water recovery for the 450 gigaliter efficiency project would only be considered if there were “no adverse socio-economic impacts and no buybacks”.

Moreover, the previous coalition ruled out water buybacks as a way to meet water conservation goals.

At the same time, South Australia’s Labor and Water Minister Susan Close and South Australia’s Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young have both expressed support for the buyback.

Beale, who owns property in the Upper Goulburn River catchment, said he “had a hard time finding the good” in the basin plan.

“It is clear that this plan will not be completed by 2024, and some projects cannot be completed in that short time,” said Beer.

She said the reason the state government supported pulling out of the basin plan was because “the federal water minister isn’t listening.”

“If she buys back water, the economic impact on those two states will be enormous.”

Nationals leader David Littleproud said sky news australia Water buybacks “rip apart small community economies.”

I asked the water minister for comment.

Henry Jom


Henry Jom is an Australia-based reporter covering Australian local news. Please contact [email protected]