04 September 2023

Basin plan should be reached without more buybacks

Citrus Australia is deeply concerned about the impacts of a buyback strategy announced for the Murray Darling Basin.

Australian Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, has lifted the embargo on water purchases by the Federal Government, paving the way for the reimplementation of water buybacks from the agriculture sector.

Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said the move could have a significant impact on horticulture industries and rural communities located across the Murray Darling Basin.

“Minister Plibersek is quoted as saying she doesn’t need permission of states and territories to initiate buybacks, and that may be the case, but I think her statement lacks any awareness of the impacts further buybacks will have on families connected with primary industry, who rely on the river for their survival, and thus that of their towns and communities,” said Hancock.

“Buybacks will only put more pressure on the people out here growing Australia’s food at a time when they’re still reeling from disrupted supply chains, caused by a global pandemic and the war in Ukraine. These issues have driven up input costs on one side, while the cost-of-living crisis has held down prices paid to growers on the other side.

“A lot has been achieved over the course of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, but much of the pain has been borne by farming communities. State governments were tasked with delivering projects that resulted in 450GL water savings and should be held to account here.”

The Independent Assessment of Social and Economic Conditions in the Murray Darling Basin Report, published in 2020, recommended governments put communities at the center of all matters concerning the basin plan’s future.

Minister Plibersek recently admitted that a report based on consultation with communities regarding options to meet the basin plan’s targets had gone unread.

“This shows the Minister has little regard for river communities, or the industries that underpin them,” Hancock said.

“We support the Minister’s decision to extend the timeframe for achieving the plan; it’s within her power to give states time to meet their responsibilities. However, turning to buybacks is just a quick fix to meet election commitments. It is shortsighted and ignores the fact that basin communities will be worse off in the long run.”

For further information, contact Matthew Jones, Communications Manager, Citrus Australia, on 0448213330 or matt.jones@citrusaustralia.com.au

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