Real cost of water buybacks revealed

The Federal Government’s plans to increase water buybacks will have a devastating impact on food production, NSW Farmers warns.

Water Taskforce chair Richard Bootle said Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek needed to explain to Australians what impact her 450,000ML (megalitres) of water buybacks would have on food security and supermarket prices.

“It’s easy to talk about water in terms of numbers, but when you drill down into what those numbers mean I think the Minister has some explaining to do,” Mr Bootle said.

“For example, one megalitre of water can produce 21,739 serves of rice, or 57,670 apples, or 51,000 potatoes.

“The Minister is talking about removing 450,000ML of water from production, that’s the equivalent of 9.8 billion serves of rice! Every single megalitre of water removed from the system through buybacks will reduce the amount of food we can produce.”

Mr Bootle said there had been an enormous amount of political fighting about the Murray Darling Basin Plan, but he urged the community and all levels of government not to forget what the practical effects were.

“We’ve seen man-made flooding as a result of filling our (flood prevention) dams with environmental water, we’ve seen once-thriving towns struggle economically, and those of us in rural communities are struggling to understand where the fairness is in all of this,” Mr Bootle said.

“This extra 450,000ML was not part of the original Basin Plan and when the Federal Government caved to South Australia at the last minute, other states were assured it would not come out of the consumptive pool.  No one can give us a clear answer as why it’s necessary and how it’s even possible to deliver that much extra water down an already constrained Murray River.

“We need answers from the government – how many people will need to go hungry and how many families and businesses will need to do it tough before they consider other options?

“I would strongly urge the Minister to follow through on previous community consultation around projects that can deliver  in-system water savings; many of these proposed options have community support, but water buybacks certainly do not.

“When you simply toss out all previous Basin-wide agreements, our communities will have no choice but to fight back.”

Date: Monday,11 September, 2023
Media Contact: Steve Mudd  | 0429 011 690 | [email protected]