The federal government is establishing a new taskforce to look at how irrigation infrastructure can help achieve further water recovery in the Northern Basin of the Murray-Darling Basin in New South Wales and Queensland, while minimising impacts on communities.
The announcement follows the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s recommendation to reduce the water recovery target in the Northern Basin from 390GL to 320GL.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said, “I welcome the reduced target and don’t want to see any more water taken out of Basin communities than is absolutely necessary to secure the long-term health of the system.
“While significantly less water recovery will be required to meet the reduced target, there will still be a ‘gap’ to bridge. I know first-hand there are many communities where the prospect of any further water recovery will be of great concern.
“The Coalition put a stop to Labor’s indiscriminate water buyback scheme through our Water Amendment Bill 2015, capping buybacks at 1,500 gigalitres and gave communities that rely on water for their local industries more certainty for the future.”
Mr Joyce said the taskforce will work with communities and industry to look at how the remaining water recovery can be managed whilst achieving a win for farmers, communities and the environment.
“Through the taskforce we will be looking at investing in modern and efficient irrigation infrastructure which would both contribute water savings towards bridging the gap, and increase farm productivity,” Mr Joyce said.
“I strongly encourage irrigators who might be interested in taking part to contact the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
“There are infrastructure projects already underway and on track to make a substantial contribution towards bridging this gap. The Healthy Headwaters Water Use Efficiency project is expected to deliver around 5GL in further savings through upgraded on-farm irrigation infrastructure.
“The Coalition Government has committed to $8 billion investment in water infrastructure across the Basin, the most significant investment in water infrastructure in Australian history.”
The Northern Basin Programmes Taskforce will commence consultations with key community and industry stakeholders soon, and will develop a program of work to bridge the remaining water recovery ‘gap’ in the Northern Basin.
The taskforce will be run by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, with consultations to follow public information sessions being conducted by the Murray Darling Basin Authority aimed at explaining their proposed recommendations from the Northern Basin Review.