THE Federal Government has made a strategic acquisition of more than 28 gigalitres of water in Queensland’s Condamine–Balonne River system.
The deal, said to have cost almost $79 million, was struck with Eastern Australia Agriculture, comprising mostly overland flows from the company’s southern Queensland properties Kia Ora and Clyde.
The investment will make a significant contribution towards achieving the remaining local water recovery required for the Condamine–Balonne under the government’s Murray–Darling Basin Plan, the Federal Government said in a statement.
Deputy prime minister and minister for agriculture and water resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the strategic acquisition represented 70 percent of the remaining local water recovery task for the Condamine–Balonne under the 320 GL Northern Basin water recovery target proposed by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority.
“This acquisition was a unique opportunity to secure a significant volume of water in a catchment of particular strategic importance to achieving the triple-bottom line outcomes of the Basin Plan,” Minister Joyce said.
“But I know there are communities where the prospect of any further water recovery will be met with concern. We understand that every job is important for rural communities, however, the impacts of this water recovery have been independently assessed to confirm that this purchase of overland flow licences should have a relatively low impact on regional production and casual employment,” he said.
“Both I and local Maranoa MP, David Littleproud, have lived in St George, so we know the value of a megalitre of water to the St George and Dirranbandi communities.”
The company that had sold its water entitlements would continue its mixed-farming business, including irrigation, and so will continue to contribute significantly to the local economy, Mr Joyce said.
Local Federal Member for Maranoa, David Littleproud said the strategic purchase provided an opportunity to complete the balance of the lower Balonne’s Murray-Darling Basin Plan commitments through improved water infrastructure and purchases upstream from the Balonne catchment, putting an end to the uncertainty once and for all.
“While this is not the most ideal outcome, it goes towards protecting the small family farms and those small businesses which support those smaller irrigators in the Lower Balonne from further buyback impacts,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Affected communities in my electorate want to get on with life and get back to business – certainty surrounding this plan is what’s needed for us to move forward – which is why I support the 320 GL recommended target.
The Balonne Shire Council has criticised the purchase, saying it did not give any certainty to communities hard-hit by water buybacks.
“We know that the recommendation for the recovery of 320 gigalitres — as a reduction from the default position of 390 gigalitres — is not certain and we know that that is yet to follow a process in the Federal Parliament,” Deputy Mayor Fiona Gaske said.
“So I fail to see how that can give us certainty at this point,” she said.
- Information on strategic water recovery in the Murray–Darling Basin, visit agriculture.gov.au/water/markets/commonwealth-water-mdb