National Farmers' Federation

Voluntary buyouts ok, but be aware… there is no water

THE acceleration of water buyback in the Murray-Darling Basin is understood by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), who today congratulated Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for his Government’s commitment to national reform – including recognition of water property rights and purchases from ‘willing sellers’ only.
“Voluntary acquisition remains the cornerstone of the Government’s approach and we’re certainly supportive of that need,” Chair of the NFF Water Taskforce Laurie Arthur said. “The Government is to be commended for sticking to the fundamental principles of the water reform agenda and not succumbing to kneejerk reactions to move towards compulsory acquisition.
“The PM has, quite rightly, highlighted the obvious… that there is no water in the short-term in the Murray-Darling Basin to resolve the situation in the Lower Lakes.
“Buying back water licenses is one thing. But right now, most irrigators are – and have been for two years – on little or no water allocation. People must understand there simply is no water available to pump into ailing systems. That can only be reversed when it rains.
“That reality makes it even more important that the Government not lose sight of the on-farm investment in water-saving infrastructure, which is an essential part of the reform package. Irrigators are committed to achieving maximum water efficiency, but, as the Government’s ‘Water For The Future’ plan recognises, farmers are not in a position to do it on their own and the community is, rightly, calling for more efficient systems.
“In all practicality, this is the area that can actually deliver rapid improvements for environmental flows, while sustaining food production in the Murray-Darling Basin.
“We must not forget that the Murray-Darling Basin is our national ‘food bowl’ – accounting for 40% of Australia’s national food production – and, at a time of global food supply crisis, food security is a very real concern.
“As for targeting whole communities for voluntary acquisition of water, only in very specific circumstances may such a move have merit, but it must involve detailed discussion with those local communities.”

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