In August Federal Minister for Water Tanya Plibersek announced her intention to allow Commonwealth buybacks of irrigation licenses along the Murray Darling Basin to assist with the recovery of 450GL of water for the environment. The move will require the introduction of legislation to remove an existing cap on buy backs. This legislation will be introduced into Parliament before the end of the year and will need the support of either the Greens or the Coalition to pass through the senate.
There are justified concerns amongst irrigators that buy backs will inflate the market and reduce water available for farming to the detriment of regional communities. However the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry claims that packages that combine disconnecting irrigation farms from the network and decommissioning infrastructure along with fully compensated recovery can have minimal effects on water allocation prices. The announcement comes with a promise for support for communities where voluntary water purchasing has flow-on impacts.
Australian Grape & Wine holds the view that where water must be recovered, that the Government must take measures to avoid distorting or inflating the market and avoid socio-economic impacts to businesses and regions. If the buy backs proceed it will be important that the Government is held to account on their promise of providing commensurate support.
While there has been negative press from other organisations regarding this announcement, we are conscious that the poor outlook for grape prices and likelihood of vineyard removals may make this a welcomed announcement for any growers looking to exit the industry.