Secret water buyback deal slammed

The state’s peak farming group has slammed secret water buyback plans that will hurt rural communities in NSW.

On Friday afternoon The Land revealed state water ministers had agreed to almost 50 gigalitres of water buybacks at last month’s Ministerial Council meeting, with most of that water coming from NSW.

According to The Land, Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water staff revealed the decision was to secure 46GL of surface water and 3GL of groundwater “through strategic purchases” to meet water recovery targets under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

It is understood 10GL will come from the NSW Murray, 9.5GL from the Namoi, 5.1GL from the NSW Border Rivers, 1.6GL from the Barwon-Darling, and 0.9GL from the Lachlan catchment.

NSW Farmers Conservation and Resource Management Committee chair Louise Burge said the decision, which was secret until revealed by the media, was “outrageous”.

“This is pure politics, and it’s irresponsible given the situation our communities are in at the moment,” Mrs Burge said.

“Communities have been warning governments of all persuasions about the impact of this relentless pursuit of water buybacks for 12 years now, because we have seen firsthand that they devastate towns and reduce food and fibre production.

“This decision will further cut the amount of food farmers can grow at a time when families are dealing with rising food prices, it’s just outrageous.”

It comes after The Weekly Times revealed bureaucrats had urged Federal Water Minister Tanya Plibersek to “accelerate” water recovery and downplay socio-economic impacts.

Mrs Burge said communities were already concerned about an increased flood risk because of the flow targets set by water managers, and warned increased environmental flows would spill across towns and paddocks. She demanded urgent answers from both state and federal water ministers about who would define what buybacks were “strategic”, the timing of the purchases, and what impact they would have on towns and communities.

“There’s only so much water that can go down these rivers before they sprawl all over the countryside like we’re seeing at the moment,” she said.

“Just look at the situation around Echuca and all the other farms and towns along the system – they want another 10GL of water to come down the Murray, plus all the hundreds of GL of water they already have – how is all of this water not going to create further flooding?

“There are better ways to achieve environmental outcomes than water buybacks, and I think communities deserve the truth about this decision.”

Date: Friday, November 11, 2022
Media Contact: Steve Mudd  | 0429 011 690 | [email protected]