Canberra, ACT, 5 July 2024: Six months since the Water Amendment (Restoring our Rivers) Bill ascended and despite assurances that all tools are in the toolbox, the Federal Water Minister, Tanya Plibersek is opting only for one, to fund buybacks1. The first communities in the firing line being the Southern Murray Darling Basin despite not knowing the likely impact.

The Council’s CEO, Zara Lowien, said by rushing onto buybacks knowing all too well it will have the most negative impacts on communities and drive-up water prices, Minister Plibersek has played lip-service to Basin communities and the requirement to consider socio-economic impacts”.

“A signed declaration indicated the impacts have been considered without actually knowing exactly where, what type of entitlements and what industries or communities will be impacted and on what scale”.

Figure 1

“The entire 70 gigalitres targeted, could come from just one valley or region, devasting those communities or push a known vulnerable community2 or industry to breaking point”.

“If you don’t have the detail, how can you truly consider the likely impact”.



“The Albanese Government have had the option since the changes, but we had expected more thought and strategy would be made considering the likely impacts,” said Mrs Lowien.

“But the updated 450GL Framework3 provides very little insight, even in the multitude of attachments.”

“It is not a real strategy but a high-level wish list without any substance on how to mitigate impacts on communities or achieve the programs outcomes of value for money and
enhanced environmental outcomes.”

“The framework relies solely on a vague claim to use a mix of tools and subsequently buy off communities with the $300M sugar hit from the Basin Communities fund.”

“The Federal Government say we have these alternatives on offer, yet we are more six months into the extension and there is not one new funding announcement other than

“Many of the supposed alternative options, don’t even have a program to apply or department lead”.

“Is not good enough and it doesn’t pass the pub test for Basin communities”.

“We know there are alternative project ideas being put to both State and Federal Governments that must be sitting on desks providing alternative ways to complete the Plan without the negative community impacts”.

“The clock is ticking to fund and build these alternative projects.”

“Governments cannot sit back and go slow on these alternatives but rush into buybacks without eroding the little remaining good will of industry and communities”.

“It’s time to look at all the options and start funding those gathering dust on the Minister’s desk”.

“And that includes also investing in direct-action projects known as complementary measures, to address environmental degradation around the Basin that won’t be fixed with water,” said Mrs Lowien.

Media Contact: Zara Lowien, CEO National Irrigators’ Council