Water buybacks aimed at Darling River recovery

Pastoralist and Darling River advocate, Rob McBride, is thrilled with the Federal Government’s announcement to spend $2 billion to fix the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP).

“Water has been controlled and misused and abused for the past 10 years and we need effective transparency and integrity rather than the bullyboy tactics of the northern basin cotton farmers through their national party puppets,” he says.

“The dams are only to store up water for the unsustainable industries that have spread like a cancer throughout the northern basin.

“Fact is, buybacks will be undertaken as there are vast amounts of unsustainable water licenses in the northern basin.”

The MDBP was legislated 10 years ago, by the then Federal Labor government, with the stated aim to save the Murray Darling water system, to keep the rivers and environment healthy, and serve the communities along the rivers.

But since then, the MDBP hasn’t worked out as originally envisaged.

According to the original MDBP agreement, 450 gigalitres should be returned to the river system by the states, by 2024, but so far only two gigalitres have been returned in 10 years.

Parkes MP, Mark Coulton, doesn’t share Mr McBride’s enthusiasm.

“Basin communities across the Parkes electorate face the prospect of indiscriminate water buybacks,” says Mr Coulton.

“Despite having no dollars listed, Labor has clearly indicated they are going back to the dark days of water buybacks, in an effort to return 450 gigalitres to South Australia.”

Namoi Industry Group for Water Licences Executive Officer, Mick Toffey, says, “we do not support any further buybacks as part of the Basin Plan. That only sees communities which produce food and fibre in an increasingly precarious position when dry times return. Willing sellers are willing sellers, there is not any undue influence from Namoi Water in that regard.”

Currently, the Federal government is only discussing voluntary water licence buybacks.

The Albanese government plans to invest over $2 billion to deliver the Murray–Darling Basin Plan in full, including returning water to the environment.

Some $22 million will be used to update the science behind water decisions to ensure the impacts of climate change are accounted for in managing Murray–Darling Basin water resources.

This may finally help establish the true level of evaporation from the Menindee Lakes system as, at the moment, this is determined by measuring evaporation from a metre wide round tin tank surrounded by cement in Menindee.

Another $29 million will be aimed, says the Federal government, at rebuilding public confidence and trust in Murray–Darling Basin water management, especially after investigations into water theft and mismanagement, the South Australian Murray Darling Basin Royal Commission, and the historical lack of effective metering and monitoring water use in the upper Darling.

Other funds will cover pipeline and weir projects, ensuring water supply to communities as well as improving groundwater and water efficiency in Burdekin, Queensland.

Federal Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, has promised, “the Australian Government will deliver a strong, secure and sensible national water plan for the future – for towns and communities, for industry, and for the environment. All three go hand in hand.

“After nearly a decade of broken promises and dodgy behaviour under the Liberals and Nationals, we will restore trust and integrity to water policy.”
We shall see if these latest moves can solve one of the most contentious and important issues in our region.

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