The Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee today backed the Australian Government’s move to cap buybacks from irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin at 1500 GL/year.
Senator for South Australia Anne Ruston, who chaired the inquiry into the Water Amendment Bill 2015, said the legislation provided much-needed certainty to river communities.
"The committee – which tabled its report in the Senate today – found the legislation would be of significant benefit to river communities and irrigators and was integral to delivering the environmental, social and economic outcomes required by the Basin Plan," Senator Ruston said.
"The committee also found it would not compromise the Government’s ability to meet the plan’s water recovery targets, a finding supported by the SDL Stocktake Report released in Adelaide on 27 August.
"Evidence presented to the committee showed the Government’s prioritisation of projects that recover water through infrastructure efficiencies were delivering positive outcomes for river communities.
"We heard evidence from environmental groups and other witnesses who opposed the legislation, however the message for these groups is quite clear: the legislation doesn’t absolve the Government from recovering the full 2750 GL/year required by the Basin Plan. We’re committed – and required by law – to meet that target on time and on budget.
"Environmental groups should appreciate that the water they want for environmental flows is going to be recovered; when they quibble over how it is being recovered, they’re sending a message that they don’t care about sustainable and viable river communities in the Basin.
"The aim of the Basin Plan is to deliver a triple-bottom line outcome, not favour the environment at the expense of river communities which rely on irrigation."