Victorian environment groups have called on the Federal Government to stick to its election promise to ‘bridge the gap’ and save the Murray-Darling river system by buying back water entitlements from willing sellers.
The report of the Windsor Inquiry into the socio-economic effects of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, released today, has suggested an immediate halt to the Commonwealth’s voluntary water buyback program.
“Voluntary water buybacks are proven to be the most environmentally effective and economically efficient way to return water to rivers,” said Environment Victoria CEO Kelly O’Shanassy.
“Indefinitely delaying the voluntary buyback program would seriously undermine water reform in the Murray-Darling Basin.
“It would be like keeping a patient on life-support rather than actually curing the illness.
“The Murray-Darling has been a river system in crisis for too long, it cannot afford further delays and indecision.
“Prime Minister Gillard and Water Minister Tony Burke should reaffirm their election promise, and rule out any halt on voluntary water buybacks,” she said.
“The Windsor Inquiry report is wrong to say that the Commonwealth’s buyback program is random or has no strategy at all. It has been far more effective than any other program in returning water to stressed and dying rivers,” said Victorian National Parks Association spokesman Nick Roberts.
“Environment groups would welcome constructive improvements to the water buyback program, but it doesn’t have to be suspended while improvements are made,”
“Other measures to return water to the environment such as pumps and pipes and water efficiency can play a role in the overall solution, but alone they will never be enough to save the river.
“According to figures presented to Senate Estimates hearings last week, water saved through water infrastructure efficiency measures costs an extraordinary ten times as much as water bought on the open market,” said Friends of the Earth campaigner Jonathan La Nauze.
“We welcome the report’s call for the government to be more responsive to proactive offers from farmers wanting to sell their water entitlements, since, as the report recognises, there are plenty of willing sellers out there.
“Right now, while water levels are higher is a good time to purchase water from these willing sellers. Waiting until the next drought would just create more impacts on farmers and Basin communities,” he said.
Kelly O’Shanassy, Environment Victoria, Ph. 0421 054 402
Jonathan La Nauze, Friends of the Earth, Ph. 0402 904 251
Nick Roberts, Victorian National Parks Association, Ph. 0429 945 429