The Nationals Member for Shepparton District, Kim O’Keeffe, is deeply concerned about a new Federal water bill, which could see buybacks to recover more water from local irrigators.
Ms O’Keeffe says these changes, if implemented, will have severe and far-reaching consequences for our region.
“The Murray-Darling Basin is a lifeline for our community, providing vital water resources for agriculture, sustaining local jobs, and ensuring the affordability of essential food items.
“Our region is one of the largest producers of fruit and vegetables in Australia and regional communities are reliant on irrigation to grow high-quality produce for both local and international consumers.
“The proposed amendments to the Plan, particularly the increased focus on water buybacks, threaten to undermine the foundations of our local economy and Australia’s food and fibre industries,” she said.
Federal Water Minister Tanya Plibersek introduced the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023 on September 6.
Ms O’Keeffe said, “This legislation threatens to roll back the progress that has been made in safeguarding our communities from socio-economic harm, a commitment agreed upon by all Basin states in 2018.
“If passed, it will rely on water buybacks to recover an additional 450GL from irrigators, remove the 1,500GL cap on Commonwealth water purchases, and only offer ‘transitional assistance’ for communities impacted by water purchases, rather than protecting those communities from harm in the first place.
“Water buybacks have shown to have detrimental effects on our region in the past. They result in a direct loss of water entitlements from our local farmers, who rely on these resources to grow the food we all depend on.
“The consequences go beyond the farming community. As food production becomes more expensive, the price of everyday items such as milk, orange juice, potatoes, apples, eggs, tomatoes, and meat will inevitably rise. This places an additional burden on households that are already grappling with financial pressures.
“Water buybacks will only bring more pain to households during a cost-of-living crisis and threaten local agriculture and food processing industries and economies in basin communities,” Ms O’Keeffe said.
“Our region’s resilience is at stake. Water buybacks should never come at the cost of our communities’ vitality and prosperity. The impact on our region would be significant should buybacks occur.”