WATER BUY BACKS HURT COMMUNITIES
Water: if it’s being used right – don’t buy it back!
Once it’s gone, it not coming back – water doesn’t flow upstream.
Without irrigation, Griffith and its proud contribution to Australia’s economy and cultural life, would not exist!
No Water. No Food. It’s that simple.
Your voice matters. HAVE YOUR SAY!: The Bill is currently before the Senate and there are key independent Senators, including David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie, who are yet to make up their mind. Call them, email them, write to them – make your voice heard and keep Griffith Thriving.
David Pocock (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jaqui Lambie (email@example.com)
The Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023 (Cth) (Bill) currently before the Senate would amend the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to:
- Enable buy-backs of an additional 450 gigalitres of water for environmental use
- Remove the 1,500 gigalitre cap on water buy-backs
- Remove the requirement for buy-backs to have a neutral or positive socio-economic impact
- Extend the deadline for States to deliver Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) water saving projects, from June 2024 to December 2026
This about politics, not good policy. Buy-backs will mean that farmers sell their water entitlements due to fluctuating economic conditions and the caprice of the market. Water allocation should instead be based on long-term considerations about the most effective way to allocate water within the Murray-Darling Basin
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan has not been achieved due to a failure of States and the Commonwealth to deliver SDLAM projects, which would have increased the available amount of water in the Murray-Darling Basin (through infrastructure investments, better measurement and accountability measures, removal of constraints etc)
Buy-backs can only have a negative socio-economic impact – local businesses and communities should not be punished for the failures of the States and Commonwealth to deliver on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan
The Chamber is opposed to any further water buy-backs and submits that:
- Water buy-backs should not be considered until the States and Commonwealth deliver on SDLAM projects
- Irrigation areas which demonstrate effective water use (including outstanding levels of transparency, sustainability and productivity) such as Griffith and the MIA, should be designated as ‘special agricultural areas’ and excluded from any further water buy backs, to ensure the longevity and growth of Australia’s prime irrigated farming areas. This will have ongoing benefits to business, the community and our food security
We’ve been here before. In 2012, when the Plan was first introduced, water buy backs sent shock waves through our economy, denting confidence and leading to falling house prices, as residents left town. This didn’t just hurt farmers – it hurt businesses and the broader community. Every time a farmer left town, that was one less customer, client and community member – eroding everyone’s bottom line and our way of life.
This could not come at a worse time – business confidence is currently at historic lows, similar to that seen during the pandemic, when the economy was forcibly shutdown. It also comes at a time when the cost of doing business is constantly on the rise.
The proposed removal of the requirement that buy backs have a neutral or positive socio-economic impact (as currently required by law) sends a very clear signal that buy backs will only have negative results.
Riverina communities cannot be blamed and should not be punished for the failure to deliver on the Plan. The Plan has not been achieved because of a failure of States and the Commonwealth to deliver SDLAM projects, which would have increased the available amount of water in the Basin (through infrastructure investments, better accountability, and removal of constraints).
Why should a shop of Banna Avenue or a workshop on Wakaden Street, be punished because of the failures of State and Federal governments to deliver SDLAM projects?
The Bill sends a very clear message that the Plan’s target of delivering an additional 450 gigalitres of water for environmental use, will be met through water buy-backs, not through SDLAM projects.
People say that’s just the market at work – that farmers want to sell their water. No farmer wants to sell their water. Buy-backs are based on the caprice of the market – farmers will sell their water due to fluctuating and temporary economic conditions.
That is not how we should run our rivers. The free market is an inappropriate mechanism by which to allocate the finite resource of fresh water running through our rivers. Instead, water allocation must instead be based on long-term considerations about the most effective way to allocate water within the Basin.
In the MIA, a drop of water goes further than anywhere else – it boasts some of the most water-efficient rice production anywhere in the world.
With more than 100 years of investment in sustainable water-use infrastructure and irrigation know-how, Griffith and MIA is best-positioned to ensure that the Basin’s precious water is used effectively.
The Chamber’s position is that irrigation areas which demonstrate effective water use (with outstanding levels of transparency, sustainability and productivity) such as Griffith and the MIA, should be designated as ‘special agricultural areas’ and excluded from any further water buy backs. This will ensure the longevity and growth of Australia’s prime irrigated farming areas.
If it’s metred – don’t buy it back. If its within an area with efficiency infrastructure – don’t buy it back. If it’s in the MIA – don’t buy it back.
Water buy-backs also must not be considered until SDLAM projects have been properly resourced and delivered in full. We must continue to experiment and invest in know-how and innovation, not in zero-sum transfers of water.
Keep Griffith Thriving!