Friday, June 21, 2024

Murray-Darling Basin deadline looms

NSW Minister for Water, Kevin Anderson, says the State will reaffirm its position that more time and flexibility is needed to implement the remaining shared commitments under the Basin Plan, at this week’s Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council meeting.

Mr Anderson said the meeting comes at a critical time as all Basin State and Territory Ministers must determine a new pathway for delivering water recovery targets ahead of  the 30 June 2024 Basin Plan deadline.

“NSW has worked hard in consultation with Basin communities to bring forward constructive ideas for how the outcomes of the Basin Plan could be delivered without further impacting regional communities,” he said.

“This includes providing for more time and flexibility for the remaining Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) projects to be delivered, and allowing new projects that would enable equivalent environmental outcomes to be achieved without taking water from regional communities.

“The Better Baaka and Better Bidgee are examples of projects that should be supported, as they recognise water recovery alone will not deliver the environmental outcomes intended by the Basin Plan.

“Installing fishways, fencing off riverbanks, restoring riparian and instream habitat and addressing cold water pollution all go towards achieving environmental outcomes without undermining regional communities and their economies.”

Mr Anderson said NSW is calling on the Commonwealth and other Basin State Ministers to support projects like these.

“As the NSW Water Minister my priority is healthy rivers, healthy farms and healthy communities; not one or the other.”

“Gaining support from other Basin Ministers for greater flexibility in delivering SDLAM projects will be essential, as without changes, several projects will be unable to be delivered, significantly increasing the amount of water recovery required.”

In relation to the target for up to 450 GL of additional water for the environment, Mr Anderson said NSW will not support any proposal to remove the socio-economic criteria that Ministerial Council agreed to in 2018 nor to meet this target through water buybacks.

“The NSW Liberal and Nationals Government knows too well the significant impact that buying back water will have on regional communities,” he said.

“Not only does it permanently reduce the amount of water available for regional communities in the long term, it increases the price of water for other users, and reduces agricultural productivity in regional areas.

“There is no escaping the fact that buying this amount of water would devastate our agricultural sector and our regional communities at a time when food prices are skyrocketing. We have seen first-hand the impact that Commonwealth buyback programs have had before and will not stand by and watch this happen again.

“NSW will strongly argue that any further water recovery must be prioritised through investment in water infrastructure rather than buybacks and will be using the upcoming Ministerial Council meeting to fight for the interests of NSW communities.”

The NSW Government has published a position statement (PDF, 350.7 KB) which outlines its position on key issues likely to be discussed at Friday’s meeting.

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