Thursday, July 25, 2024

Devastating water buybacks on the way for Northern Victoria: Lovell

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The Hon. Wendy Lovell, Member for Northern Victoria, Media Release, 8 July 2024

The Commonwealth government has betrayed Northern Victoria by announcing further water buybacks from irrigation districts that will drive up costs for irrigators and devastate farming communities.

Federal Water Minister Tanya Plibersek announced on 4 July that as part of the plan to recover 450GL of water in the Murray-Darling Basin, the Government will put out an open tender to purchase 70GL of water from the southern Basin.

Despite an earlier commitment that water recovery would exclude irrigators, Plibersek has broken her word with an open tender that deliberately targets irrigation districts in Northern Victoria along the Murray River. 

Victoria has already done more than its fair share of recovering water for environmental use, having contributed 440GL more than SA, and 170GL more than NSW.

Yet the Federal Labor Government’s latest plan does not apportion additional recovery fairly between states, but merely seeks to buy the cheapest water wherever it is, which could hurt Victoria further.

The Water Minister claims to want to minimise socio-economic impacts, but the irrigation districts targeted for water purchases include those identified as among the most socio-economically vulnerable to buybacks in a recent report by the government’s own ABARES agency.

These water buybacks will increase the cost of water, the cost of maintaining the irrigation network, and flow on to increasing the cost of food for everyone.

The policy will reduce farm production and lead to the loss of jobs, both directly in agricultural industries but also in secondary industries and the wider community.

Directly purchasing water entitlements from irrigators is lazy policy, that avoids the hard work of saving water by improving the delivery system and/or on-farm infrastructure, and instead takes water away from food production that contributes to the economy and sustains vital regional communities.

This tender is only the beginning of the Federal Government’s staged water purchasing plan, and the Victorian Water Minister Harriet Shing is not doing enough to prevent the devasting effects that will flow on to farming communities in Northern Victoria.

Comments attributable to Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell:

“Tanya Plibersek committed to not targeting irrigation districts for buybacks, but this new water tender breaks that promise by directly targeting irrigators in Northern Victoria along the Murray River.”

“The Federal Labor Government pretends to care about the social and economic impacts of purchasing water, but then targets irrigation districts that are among the most vulnerable to buybacks.”

“Victoria has done more than its fair share of returning water to the environment, and State Labor Minister Harriet Shing isn’t fighting hard enough to get fair treatment for Victorian farmers and irrigation communities.”

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