Hanson-Young: Buybacks Revival Crucial

The water buyback scheme made a comeback in August with Federal Water Minister, Tanya Plibersek, agreeing to re-write Australia’s $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin plan to include widescale water buybacks and an extension to deadlines for delivering water-saving projects.

With SA Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, visiting Menindee this week to gather first-hand information for the Water and the Murray Darling Basin portfolio she oversees, the senator shared her thoughts about the failing Murray-Darling Basin Plan with the Barrier Truth, and her faith in buybacks to help restore the river system.

“There’s no doubt that greed is behind this situation. People have taken out more water than their fair share to use for various projects instead of releasing it back into the environment and ensuring that the river has enough to survive.

“Water efficiency projects are just not delivering. They’ve delivered efficiencies for big corporate irrigators at the cost of the taxpayer and people who rely on the river.

“We’re getting to the end of the legislated timelines of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan now and there’s still a shortfall – a gap of 750 gigalitres – 450 gigalitres includes water that was promised to South Australia to sign up to the original plan, but there’s another 300 gigalitres still remaining unsecured that hasn’t been returned to the environment as promised.

“There’s quite a bit of water still that needs to be found and I think it’s important that we put buybacks back on the table,” said the senator.

“The most economically efficient way of delivering these goals is the fairest in the sense that it’s real water. If you can buy real water from willing sellers and return it to the river, then it’s a much more transparent process, easier to account and all there for the people to see.

“I’m not a huge fan of the Productivity Commission, but they’ve always said that the buyback scheme is economically efficient, and scientists will agree it’s the most environmentally effective, so we need to put buybacks back on the table.

“The Government has obviously talked about it so it’s now part of the amendments to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. They’ll allow for buybacks to be used but what I’m worried about is a guarantee that real water is going to be bought and given to the river because if we don’t actually have some guarantees in there, what’s to say we’re not going to be back exactly where we are now in five years’ time?”

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