Just days after Senate Estimates were told the Government were only considering ‘strategic purchases’ and a mere 48 hours before Basin Ministerial Council is to meet, the Federal Water Minister has announced a reopening of non-strategic, open-tender buyback.
Shadow Water Minister, Perin Davey, said the Federal Minister has reversed conditions agreed by the Basin Ministerial Council as outlined in the Communique issued on 12 October 2022 regarding strategic purchase.
“Given the tender opens a month after the Ministerial Council meeting this Friday, there is no reason why the Minister made this announcement before meeting with her counterparts, I would have thought that just good manners,” Senator Davey said.
“Both NSW and Victoria are adamantly opposed to open tender buybacks and Friday’s meeting was supposedly to talk about how to deliver the final stages of the Basin Plan, including the bridging the gap target.
“It is becoming a pattern where the Government and Department say one thing and do another.
“In October, they promised a water recovery strategy would be out for consultation before Christmas and then quietly removed any reference to it from their website.
“At estimates just a week ago, they said they were only looking at strategic purchases and now they are going to open tenders.
“And to make matters worse, Estimates were also told during very specific questioning that the Lachlan Valley target was still to be determined pending accreditation of the Water Resource Plans, yet they are now out to buy water before that can occur,” Senator Davey said.
Senator Davey also questioned why the ACT was not included in the buybacks while it still had a bridging the gap recovery target.
According to the Minister’s statement, the Government will ‘continue to work with the ACT Government to identify, plan and deliver cost-effective efficiency projects to bridge the remaining gap of 4.9GL…’
Senator Davey said if the Government has the time and patience to work with Canberra to avoid buybacks, why can’t they afford the other catchments the same courtesy.
“Efficiencies and effective management of flows are just as important to good environmental outcomes as volume but what we are seeing from this Government is a one-eyed focus on numbers rather than outcomes or impacts,” Senator Davey said.
“The Minister says farmers want to sell their water but conveniently ignores the fact that an individual farmer selling their water is good for the individual farmer, but it has a flow-on negative impact on other water users and associated industries where there is no compensation.
“Report after report after report has shown the impact open tender buybacks have on communities and industries.
“Work done by the MDBA has shown the decline in jobs in irrigation communities following buybacks, Government commissioned reports by both the Commonwealth and individual States have shown the negative community impact and an independent report by Aither has shown the impact buybacks have had on the water market which hits other water users.
“There are ways the Basin Plan can be delivered without such a drain on our regional communities, but it takes a willingness to accept new thinking and recognise outcomes achieved by management rather than recovery.
“There are good ideas that should be considered from grass roots organisations and State Governments alike and I would like to work with the Government to achieve the outcomes the Basin Plan was established to meet. I hope this is what the Ministerial Council will discuss on Friday,” Senator Davey said.