Media Releases | 21st Nov, 2023

“We stand by our river” – irrigators, graziers, fishers, First Nations leaders speak out in support of water buybacks

With the Senate poised to vote on critical changes to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, an alliance of farmers, irrigators, First Nations leaders and environmental groups have come out in strong support of expanding water buybacks from willing sellers as the best way to return enough water to Australia’s biggest river system.

Today’s announcement follows a presentation of a petition in Parliament House last week with 10,000 signatures from across the Basin states urging Federal Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek to stand up and protect rivers.

The Murray-Darling Conservation Alliance, which consists of peak environment groups across NSW, VIC, QLD and SA, is calling on the government to work with all members of the Senate to strengthen the Restoring Our Rivers (2023) Bill and ensure that enough water is returned to rivers to offer the Murray-Darling a lifeline in the face of likely droughts.

Justine Bucknell, a grazier from Macquarie Marshes in NSW said:

“As floodplain graziers in the Macquarie Marshes, our business has suffered huge financial losses due to too much water being extracted upstream. We strongly support voluntary buybacks as they’re the most effective, efficient and economical way to restore real water, physical water, to the river system.”

Bill McClumpha, an irrigator from Red Cliffs in Victoria said:

“Most irrigators do support the basic elements of the Basin Plan and accept the need for meaningful water recovery. Rural decline has many causes, but water recovery is not one of them. The Basin Plan has been derailed by a populist Chicken Little scare campaign conflating it with rural decline. Buybacks are popular with the majority of irrigators who own entitlements, and they are not a factor contributing to irrigator exits.”

Garry Hall, a grazier from the Macquarie Marshes in NSW said:

“As farmers who run cattle on floodplains in the Darling Basin, our industry contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy and produces food for Aussie tables. Our community congratulates the current government for finally having the courage to address the failures of the Basin plan to date. We support a lot of the recommendations from the Senate inquiry, but it doesn’t go far enough. We need this Bill to guarantee more for the Darling ahead of the next drought.”

Gloria Jones, a multi-generational fisher from Clayton Bay in SA said:

“Minister Plibersek, we ask you to be brave. Please, buy back the necessary water from willing sellers, sooner, rather than later. It becomes harder and harder and more expensive as the years get drier. There will never be a better opportunity.”

Major Moogy Sumner, a Ngarrindjeri/Kaurna Senior Elder said:

“The government needs to not just be listening, but actually hearing and implementing the teaching from First Nations people on how to look after our rivers and water systems. We need real water returned to the river to keep our waters clean and pure not just for us, but for everyone.”

Polly Cutmore, a Gamilaraay/Wirri/Anaiwan Traditional Owner said:

“We need to recognise the rights of the river as a source of life in our country and those rights need to be respected. Our culture would not exist without it but us murris have become alienated from the decisions that are made about how it is looked after.

“What we know about our country and the changes that the colonisers have brought, tells us that drier times are coming and now it is so important to listen to what Mother Earth and our Ancestors are telling us. We need to restore the flows that give life to the river and support our culture.”

For more stories of people across the Basin who support healthy rivers, visit

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