The National Irrigators’ Council (NIC) has appeared before today’s Senate inquiry into the
Federal Government’s Restoring Our Rivers Bill 2023, which proposes a range of amendments
to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
The peak body, which was among 27 individual and stakeholder groups to present at the
public hearing in Canberra today, cited its strong opposition to the proposed reintroduction
of direct water buybacks as a mechanism for achieving the outcomes of the Basin Plan.
In his opening statement, NIC Chair Jeremy Morton, said that water alone is not the only
solution for restoring health to the Basin’s waterways.
“There are better ways to finalise the Plan without the need to buy more water from
production,” Mr Morton said.
“Initiatives that address invasive species in our waterways, riparian landscape management,
or programs to improve fish passage are just to name a few.
“The Bill does not enable investment in these sort of projects – or complementary measures –
despite the direct improvement to riparian environments.
“Instead, it focuses on the old tools, of direct water purchases from willing sellers anywhere in
the Basin without strategy or alignment with environmental outcomes. In doing so, it
effectively ignores the lessons learned from implementation and previous water purchase
A review undertaken by the NSW Irrigators’ Council of the 118 submissions received by the
Senate inquiry has revealed:
• 79% of submissions from within the Basin oppose the Bill.
• 76% of submissions from within the Basin oppose buybacks.
• 84% of submissions from within the Basin support socio economic measures.
• 63% of submissions from within the Basin expressly support complementary measures.
Regional communities and farmers want to see healthy rivers and wetlands because they
are locals too,” Mr Morton said.
“This commitment is why NIC and our members support the Basin Plan.
“The Plan has achieved results and more can be done, but unconstrained water recovery
risks jobs, businesses, supply chains, communities, cost of living, food quality and security.
“Governments should instead focus on delivering outcomes which benefit the environment,
while ensuring local communities can thrive and our food and fibre growers can grow
produce for Australians and trade.”
Many questions during today’s inquiry centred around Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment
Mechanisms (SDLAM) projects and why many of these proposed projects haven’t been
completed in the required time frame.
“NIC are equally frustrated about the failure of government to implement SDLAM projects on
time and on budget,” Mr Morton said.
“These projects are Federally approved but state-led and nothing in this bill will improve how
these projects will be governed in the future, and this is a concern for NIC.
“We support the extension of timeframes and the inclusion of new projects but its important
to keep in mind, if governments fail to implement and take accountability for the existing
and new projects in a timely manner, those same governments will be the ones looking to
recover more water to meet any shortfalls.”
With more public hearings planned for this week, the Senate Committee will hand down the
findings of its inquiry on 8 November, before the Bill goes to the Senate for vote.
In its public hearing address today, the peak body urged the Government to release the Bill’s
Regulatory Impact Assessment ahead of the pending Senate debate.
“Providing the Senate access to independent information on the costs and benefits of the Bill
is crucial to ensuring a fully informed decision can be made,” Mr Morton said.
Ends. Media Contact: Jeremy Morton, Chair, 0429 873 230, firstname.lastname@example.org