Media Release


Basin Plan Deal: Let the Hunger Games Begin

The fate of regional communities in the Murray-Darling Basin now rests with a handful of Senate crossbenchers after the Labor and the Greens today struck a deal to enforce another 450 GL in water buybacks from farmers within four years.

NSW Irrigators’ Council CEO Claire Miller said if the deal stands, it will be another nail in the coffin for regional communities who rely on the jobs, services and income generated by an agriculture sector under siege from this Government.

National polling published today mirrors the overwhelming majority of submissions to the Senate Inquiry and regional rallies last week, opposing buybacks when given other options to improve the health of Murray-Darling Basin rivers.

“This Government could not be more out of touch when Australians across the city-country divide are saying no to water buybacks costing regional jobs, hollowing out towns and driving up food prices,” said Ms Miller.

“The Minister’s insistence that buybacks are not the only option is disingenuous at best. The Bill explicitly only allows for entitlements transferred from the irrigation pool to the environment.

“This excludes other options on the minister’s desk to free up more water and measures to fix the biggest degradation drivers including invasive species and cold water pollution.

“To add insult to injury, it is well documented that any water recovered cannot physically be delivered where it is intended to go. All this legislation does is recover numbers on a page at the expense of farmers and regional communities.”

The Government is also pushing ahead with damaging and divisive buybacks in the absence of comprehensive social, economic and environmental impact research, genuine consultation or bipartisan and Basin State support.

“This is not a win for the environment as it does not deliver what the river actually needs. Fish passages, carp management, fish habitat restoration and relaxing the restraints will deliver real environmental outcomes, not unnecessary buying back more water that can’t be delivered.”

Ms Miller said data from the Government’s own agency ABARES reveals water buybacks have already driven water allocation prices above $200/ML in three out of 10 years, and estimates taking another 450 GL from farmers would push this to eight out of 10 years.

“Most farmers cannot afford to stay in business with water prices this high, this often.

“Farm jobs will be lost and small businesses in Basin communities are going to take a massive hit. This political deal is going to cause irreversible damage to regional communities.

“We have 12,500 members and most of them are small operations. It will be hard enough for the big operators to absorb the cost increases, but our smaller operators are terrified and the Government refuses to listen.”



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