National Irrigators’ Council CEO Tom Chesson today welcomed the 1500 GL cap on water buybacks in the Murray – Darling Basin, secured into legislation through the Water Amendment Bill 2015.

Mr Chesson said the Council had long pursued a campaign for a legislated 1500 GL cap and commended the Government for its commitment to irrigated agriculture and its understanding of the benefits of water left in production. Mr Chesson also acknowledged the bipartisan support from the Labor Opposition and Labor Basin states that has resulted in the cap being finally legislated.

“I applaud the efforts of the Government to ensure that this critical measure is at last enshrined into legislation. It represents an important signal to communities, helping to improve business confidence in the irrigated agriculture sector and provide a degree of longer term certainty for those who depend on the Basin’s water resources.

“The resilience of irrigation communities is fast eroding as they continue to adapt to rapid change through the Basin Plan implementation. Independent studies undertaken to inform the development of the Basin Plan show that water buybacks have greater negative localised social and economic impacts on irrigation dependent communities than investment in water efficiency projects,” Mr Chesson said.

The 1500 GL cap sets a limit on how much water will be recovered through water purchases. The cap does not change the volume of water to be recovered under the Basin Plan, but forms part of the mix of policy and programs used to recover the remaining volume of water required to ‘bridge the gap’ between previous levels of extraction and the requirements of the Basin Plan.

Mr Chesson said it was not acceptable that reforms under the Basin Plan focus solely on water as the only management tool. Solutions must incorporate a range of measures that give equal balance to food and fibre production, the environment and the social and economic outcomes for communities.

The National Irrigators’ Council has repeatedly argued that the implementation of the Basin Plan must occur in the manner that was promised, and that is, an unwavering adherence to the commitments given to the irrigation industry and Basin communities by the Government and the MDBA. These include:

  • a balanced Plan with triple bottom line outcomes
  • willingness to reduce the amount of water to be recovered through improved river management and more efficient environmental watering
  • adaptive management and ‘localism’, and integration of environmental, social and economic modelling
  • no changes that would impact on the reliability of irrigators’ water allocations
  • no changes to rules that would result in negative impacts on third parties
  • no changes that would lead to a change in the characteristics of a class of water due to that water being transferred to the Commonwealth (for example, the use of a megalitre of general security water held by the Commonwealth’s would be governed by the same rules and terms as apply to an irrigator holding a like entitlement).

Mr Chesson said that while some of these core commitments had yet to be realised, the Council will continue to advocate for transparency across all elements of the implementation of the Basin Plan.

Contact : Tom Chesson 0418 415 597