10 March 2023

Claims controversial water buyback are 'taking advantage of people's misfortune'

| Jarryd Rowley
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Sign held up among a protest

Griffith community leaders have begun to protest the Federal Government’s decision to buy back water from local farmers and irrigators. Photo: Supplied.

Members of the Griffith community have voiced their fears about the Federal Government’s plans to buy back water from irrigators.

Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek recently announced that the Government was about to commence another round of buybacks following the release of the federal budget.

The buybacks are intended to support environmental targets set by the Federal Government however, community leaders and irrigators have expressed major concerns about the potential irreparable damage that may be inflicted upon local farmers and communities.

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Water spokesman for the Griffith Business Chamber Paul Pierotti said Griffith City Council relied on the industry sector to continue turning profits for the community and the buybacks by the Government deterred farmers and irrigators from staying in the region.

“Our primary businesses are struggling, and have been since 2013,” Mr Pierotti said.

“Griffith’s GDP has flatlined for almost a decade, property availability is at the lowest it has been for decades and now with the announcement of more water buybacks, it’s just taking advantage of people’s misfortune.

“People’s tax dollars are going towards buying back water that shouldn’t be for sale – there might be an excess now due to the floods but that won’t be the case down the track.”

Nationals candidate for Murray Peta Betts said the local community felt the Government was playing games by only notifying locals about information sessions about the buybacks 48 hours before the sessions took place.

Nationals candidate for Murray Peta Betts

Nationals candidate for Murray Peta Betts has expressed her concerns and disappointment of the Federal Government’s announcement of more water buybacks. Photo: Peta Betts.

“Our community deserves better than selective invites and closed-door meetings,” Ms Betts said.

“These buybacks will have devastating consequences on our community and for the federal Labor to duck and weave on providing information to us is just not on.”

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the Government’s plans to purchase the water would help bridge the gap under the the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. “These water purchases are vouluntary,” Ms Plibersek said.

“‘Bridging the gap’ is the largest pool of water to be recovered under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan – a total of 2075 GL, around 49 GL remains to be recovered.”

According to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, bridging the gap is the basin plan’s water recovery target which is calculated by the difference between the baseline diversion limit – BDL – and the sustainable diversion limit – SDL.

protest sign

Griffith community members have expressed their concerns about the new round of buybacks. Photo: Supplied.

The gap is currently calculated at 2750 GL a year.

The New South Wales Irrigators Council has also contacted the Ministerial Council voicing their frustrations about potential buybacks saying precious reforms have allowed fewer diversions from the basin in recent years.

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In a statement, the NSW Irrigators Council said, “The entire purpose of the basin plan was to get diversions to sustainable limits – and we’ve achieved that. In fact, diversions in NSW valleys are on average 17 per cent below the SDL.

“You can’t ‘just add water’ to fix these key degradation drivers.

“We need an integrated catchment management approach, rather than just a water management approach alone.

“Lets move beyond buybacks.”

An open tender for the buybacks will begin on 23 March.

For more information about water purchasing in the basin, visit www.dcceew.gov.au/watertender

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