Murray-Darling: Irrigators and farmers support water buybacks in new ad campaign


The Australia Institute and farmers will run full-page ads in leading rural newspapers in all Basin States this week supporting water recovery through voluntary buybacks.

Key points:

  • Australia Institute research shows that 63% of regional Australians support voluntary buybacks, with just 11% opposed to the policy.
  • Legislation is set to pass Federal Parliament this week that will return voluntary water buybacks as a key tool to deliver the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
  • Buybacks come only from willing sellers – no farmers are forced to sell water to the Government.

“The Restoring our Rivers Bill 2023 is the most important legislation since the Basin Plan was established; it is essentially how the Basin Plan will be delivered,” said Kate McBride, water researcher at the Australia Institute and fifth generation farmer.

“Voluntary water buybacks are the cheapest and most effective form of water recovery.

“Water buybacks are completely voluntary and, crucially, allow farmers flexibility and the ability to pay down debt.

“Our research shows that most regional people support voluntary water buybacks, contrary to the claims of irrigator lobby groups.

“While this legislation is a big step in the right direction, more work is required to ensure the long-term health of the Murray-Darling.

“The Basin Plan Review will occur in 2026, and this will be a further opportunity to address areas where more work is required, such as First Nations ownership, water recovery from the Northern Basin and climate change.

“This legislation is not about recovering additional water; it is simply about delivering the targets set in Basin Plan that received multi-partisan support more than a decade ago.

“With the legislation expected to pass this week, now is the time for action on water recovery.”

“The Basin Plan is not anti-irrigation; it is anti-over-extraction, which is important because there are no jobs on a dead river.”

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