Media Releases | 28th May, 2015

Buyback cap threatens rivers - and Howard's legacy


28 May 2015

The Abbott Government’s proposed legislation to cap water buybacks is a major threat to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and trashes John Howard’s legacy, says Environment Victoria.

Legislation introduced to federal parliament today would limit water buybacks to 1500 gigalitres, less than half the water required to fully implement the Plan and to have any chance of restoring our rivers to health.

“This retrograde step is the final nail in the coffin for John Howard’s plan to save the Murray,” Environment Victoria’s Healthy Rivers Campaign Manager Juliet Le Feuvre said today.

“A cap on water recovery through buybacks makes a healthy river nearly impossible to achieve. It is now time for progressive states such as Victoria to take a stand and lead the fight to speed up water recovery.”

“The whole point of the Basin Plan is to recover water for stressed rivers and repair our precious wetlands. So why would you legislate a limit on the most efficient and cost-effective method of returning water to the environment?

“Instead of choosing the cheapest and best method, the Abbott Government is choosing to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure and irrigation subsidies, which are expensive, complex, time-consuming and have uncertain outcomes.

“With a strengthening El Nino and looming drought, northern Victoria’s rivers can’t afford to wait years and years for infrastructure projects. They need water now and buying water from willing sellers gets results.

“Previous buyback tenders have been very successful and have delivered real water into the hands of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, which is being used to create real improvements in environmental conditions.

“The Commonwealth government has sole responsibility for recovering enough water to meet Sustainable Diversion Limits. The Abbott Government has repeatedly promised to deliver the Basin Plan ‘in full and on time’, and this proposed cap is an obstacle to achieving that.

“The Abbott Government’s own Commission of Audit recommended against this course of action, saying that water buybacks give the best value for taxpayer dollars and should be prioritised. Why hasn’t the government listened to its own advice?

“The Bill has some positive features in that buyback in connection with irrigation rationalisation will be excluded from the cap, as will water recovery for the Special account. However, the cap will override all the other components of the Basin Plan, and, if there is a shortfall in funding, water recovery will also fall short.

“John Howard made it his personal mission to save the Murray-Darling River system and this proposal to cap water buybacks leaves his legacy in tatters.”


For comment:

Juliet Le Feuvre, Healthy Rivers Campaigner, 0428770019