The Australian Agriculture Group has criticized the Albanian government’s opaque water buyback plan, saying the move is a cause for concern for communities along the Murray-Darling Basin.
This follows recent federal budget announcements (pdf), the allocation of funds to meet the Murray-Darling Basin’s water conservation goals was not disclosed “due to commercial sensitivities”.
“Communities are nervous about the government’s approach to this issue and will get chills down their spines at the numbers hidden in the budget,” said Fiona Simson, president of the National Farmers Federation, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Water buybacks have been a controversial issue since the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was enacted in 2012, led by the State of Victoria, New South Wales (NSW), the Commonwealth Opposition, the National Farmers Federation and the National Irrigation Council. strongly opposed to this move.
The budget states that the Labor government’s financial impact on the Murray-Darling Basin is not specified, but reports that the funds could be used by the Commonwealth to purchase water from farmers.
Federal Water Minister Tanya Privasek has previously said a voluntary buyback is “under consideration” in connection with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and Privasek has also hinted at an extension. He said the 2024 deadline of supplying 450 gigaliters efficiently by 2020 was “nearly impossible”.
Since the plan became law in 2012, more than 2,100 gigaliters of water have been returned to the environment. Under this plan, the basin countries agreed to remove he 2,750 gigaliters of water from irrigated agriculture by 2024 and return it to the basin.
These are primarily due to infrastructure upgrades and water buybacks.
For and Against Repurchase
At the same time, South Australia’s Labor and Water Minister Susan Close and South Australia Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young have expressed support for water buybacks.
“For the first time, South Australia can feel confident that we can finally deliver on our plans,” said Close.
Hanson-Young said if a licensee has water for sale, “they should be allowed.”
But Claire Miller, CEO of the NSW Irrigation Council, said water prices could skyrocket if the Commonwealth entered the market.
Miller added that water buybacks have been a “trigger” for communities and farmers in the basin. This is reminiscent of what happened in 2009 and 2012, when “the government ransacked communities to buy back water.”
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.
Regarding recent budget allocations, Plibersek said, “There is an urgent need for spending-backed action to keep the plan on track.”
The budget also states that measures to meet environmental water conservation targets will be “partially offset by redirecting funds from within the climate change, energy, environment and water portfolios.”
On the other hand, an independent report by the Water Special Account for the Environment (WESA) (pdf) found that up to $10.8 billion could be spent to reach the 450 gigaliter target if the 2024 deadline were removed.