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Morrison Coalition Government kills the Murray-Darling Basin Plan

The Federal Government’s decision to ban water buy-backs from willing sellers in the Murray Darling Basin ensures the Basin Plan’s 2024 environmental targets will not be met. 

“Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt’s announcement today is the death knell of the Basin Plan,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“The change means the Basin Plan must rely solely on engineering solutions to fulfil its aims, which just sets up the Plan for failure.

“Numerous studies have shown water buy-backs are the fastest and most cost-effective way to make the rivers flow again.

“They have also found engineering works are more expensive and return less water to the river while having the perverse effect of stimulating demand from big irrigators and pushing up the price of water. [1]

“Our river systems are in a fight for their lives. Banning water buy-backs means the water authorities are being pushed into the ring with one hand tied behind their backs.

“The winners from this senseless move will be big irrigators who are effectively dictating terms to the government to continue over-extracting water for private profit.

“The losers are the regional communities, native fish and wetlands, Indigenous peoples and all Australians who love our rivers and want them to flow free.

“The government should buy back licences from the north of the basin — from willing sellers — where more water is allocated than can be sustainably delivered,” he said.

“It must vastly improve modelling and monitoring of flows to avoid massive discrepancies like those identified by the Wentworth Group yesterday, and must also make the ownership and trading of water rights totally transparent.

“This move will put struggling native fish populations at further risk and undermines the purpose of the Basin plan — to recover an over-extracted river system to sustainable levels of health.”


[1] Recovering water for the environment in the Murray-Darling: farm upgrades increase water prices more than buybacks, The Conversation, 1-9-2020

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