Buyback cap ‘wrong’
Thursday, 17th January, 2013
By Kurtis J Eichler
Capping water licence purchases for environmental purposes is “bad news” and will only slow the return of water to the Darling River, the Darling River Action Group (DRAG) has warned.
NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, this week announced plans to limit the amount of water the Federal Government can buy as part of its Murray-Darling Basin plan.
Once the three per cent limit is reached in a valley no more purchases for environmental purposes will be approved and processed by NSW.
DRAG secretary, Brian Stevens, said it was yet another win for irrigators.
Irrigators will “fight tooth and nail not to lose anything,” Mr Stevens said.
“That’s bad news... really bad news. It will slow down the whole program to return water to the river.
“There’s been a lot of scaremongering about having less water available for irrigators and DRAG doesn’t go along with that.”
But Ms Hodgkinson said it was intended to provide a more sustainable rate of purchase.
“The NSW government will not stand by and allow the Commonwealth to take the lazy option which removes water from productive purposes in NSW,” she said.
Mr Stevens argued the Minister was “in there” for the farmers, and the government was urging communities to save water by improving infrastructure.
This included lining irrigation canals to avoid water seepage into the soil, he said.
He said the “ideal” would be to pipe all the water in, which was an expensive exercise.
“Someone has to maintain the new infrastructure and it will cost anywhere from between twice and four times as much to just buy the water back.”
The Federal Government’s plan sets aside 2750 gigalitres a year to revive the Murray-Darling river system by 2019 and a further 450 billion by 2024.
Ideally, Mr Stevens would like to see a mixture of buybacks of irrigators’ water and infrastructure upgrades.
“During the long drought... production in the Murray-Darling Basin hardly dropped at all because the farmers increased their efficiency and water trading increased the efficiency of the whole system,” he said.