28 October, 2012

Murray Darling Basin

Murray Darling Basin

The Qld Government has expressed serious concerns over the announcement by the Federal Government to take an additional 450GL of water to achieve environmental objectives in the Murray-Darling Basin through water recovery projects.

The Federal Government has resolved to provide $1.77 billion over ten years from 2014 to relax key operating constraints and allow an additional 450GL of environmental water to be obtained through projects to ensure there is no social and economic downside for communities.

This announcement represents a stage in the development of the Basin Plan which is on track to be finalised before the end of the year. The Federal Government will invest primarily in on-farm efficiency works that generate water savings for the environment and other projects as agreed by states.

Qld Natural Resources and Mines Minister, Andrew Cripps, said the Federal Government and the Murray Darling Basin Authority must immediately clarify the impacts of this announcement on Qld and the northern part of the Murray–Darling Basin.
The Federal Government is working with the South Australian Government to provide funding to support environmental infrastructure and remedial works and to assist South Australian irrigators to diversify and secure their economic future. Further details of these initiatives will be released as they are finalised.

The Qld Government is not willing to participate in a negotiation process if there will be an increased impact on Qld communities. Mr Cripps said he is seeking clarification that funding for the southern portion of the Basin would not diminish the pool of funds available to assist northern Basin irrigators and communities to cope with reduced water availability.

Mr Crisp expressed frustration that there is still no detail on how that money will be spent or how much will be spent in Qld. Mr Cripps said there is still not sufficient recognition of the different water management issues faced by Qld to those in the southern Basin.

Modelling, released by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority earlier this month, showed that through a combination of relaxing capacity constraints and providing an additional 450GL of water above the 2750GL described in the plan, would deliver better environmental outcomes for the basin.

The extra funding will be secured through a special account and advance appropriation of future funds to ensure its availability through to 2024 by which time the additional water will have been recovered. 

Legislation to establish the special account and advance appropriation is expected to be introduced into Parliament before the end of the year. The funding will be met from within existing resources and from funds set aside in the recent Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.  The Federal Opposition has not committed to the Basin Plan.

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