Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie welcomed today’s announcement of no more water buybacks from irrigators and strengthened compliance within the Murray Darling Basin Authority that the Victorian Nationals have been pushing for.
Today’s Murray–Darling Communities Investment Package means Victorian communities will share in an overhaul of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan that will see over $230 million invested in creating jobs, economic activity and healthy rivers in regional areas.
Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, said the 11 new initiatives in the package were about keeping the Basin Plan on track while ruling out water buybacks. There’ll be an emphasis on investing in communities, improving river health and, building trust and transparency between governments and communities.
“Communities have told us in no uncertain terms that they are sick of being talked at and not listened to,” Minister Pitt said. “That feedback came through loud and clear in the Independent Assessment of Social and Economic Conditions in the Basin report which I released today.
“It’s time to shift our focus to engaging and involving communities in developing the solutions that are right for them and to stop treating the water recovery task as something separate.
“Strong representation from government MPs and senators, including Senator McKenzie and Victorian Nationals Damian Drum and Anne Webster, of community issues and concerns throughout the Basin has contributed to the reforms announced today.”
Senator McKenzie said it was time to make the Basin Plan pay dividends to communities rather than communities pay for the Basin Plan.
“Starting with no more water buybacks from our irrigators and splitting the MDBA so that there’s a separate compliance arm ensuring more accountability, transparency and ultimately fairness for our irrigation communities,” she said.
A new statutory role will be established separate from the MDBA and $40 million is being committed to improving compliance.
Importantly, the package includes a new approach to the delivery of Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment projects and the 450 GL to help Basin governments and communities achieve Basin Plan requirements.
“No more pressure put on our irrigators with a focus on more community led solutions for off farm water savings and investment in jobs,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Basin irrigators will also welcome development of a web-based real time water information platform as single point of information on water storages, flows and trade information as part of the government’s commitment to the reforms.”
Among the 11 initiatives announced today are:
- $38 million for a Sustainable Riverland Environment Program to recover water through improved efficiencies
- $34 million in grant assistance for communities hard hit by water recovery through the MDB Economic Development Program
- $20 million for a Healthy Rivers Program to fund community-driven proposals to improve the health of local rivers and wetlands
- Four new Indigenous river ranger teams across the Basin
“This is a great outcome on top of water now being treated as a high security asset in terms of foreign investment that the Nationals pushed for. But more is to be done as part of the Victorian Nationals plan which includes a moratorium on development in NSW and SA parts of the basin in which I have written to both governments calling on this.”
Minister Pitt added: “The Murray–Darling Communities Investment Package is a way for all of us to move forward and get the most we can from the Plan.”
A full list of initiatives available as part of the Murray–Darling Community Investment
Package can be found here: https://vic.nationals.org.au/murray-darling-communities-investment-package/