Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Targeted Water Purchase Initiative in Southern Murray-Darling Basin

Media release
23 February 2012

A new, strategic water purchase initiative will be conducted by the Gillard Government in the southern connected system of the Murray Darling Basin from 27 February, 2012.

Water Minister Tony Burke said the new initiative would contribute to the steady, measured pace of water recovery for the environment and is in line with recommendations of the Standing Committee on Regional Australia's report Of Drought and Flooding Rains: Inquiry into the impact of the Guide to the Murray Darling Basin Plan in Regional Australia.

"I am determined that Murray Darling Basin reform delivers healthy rivers, strong communities and sustainable food production," Mr Burke said.

"We can achieve this by investing in infrastructure upgrades and improving the efficiency and productivity of our irrigation industry while we also recover water for the rivers.

"This new initiative will involve seeking expressions of interest for water purchase in the southern connected system focusing on acquiring entitlements held outside of shared irrigation delivery networks, and some strategic purchases from within irrigation networks.

"The new approach focusing on targeted purchases has been developed to provide an opportunity for eligible irrigators who wish to sell their water the chance to do so, whilst minimising the effect on shared irrigation delivery networks of water trade to the environment.

"It's about continuing a steady pace of water recovery to help communities transition to sustainable diversion limits under a final Murray Darling Basin Plan.

"Water recovered through infrastructure investment and buyback is improving the health of the Murray Darling Basin and will complement the Gillard Government's major investments in more efficient irrigation water delivery and use."

The initiative is designed to test the market for targeted water purchases. It will include strategic purchases of water entitlements from within irrigation districts, but only where irrigation network operators advise the sale is consistent with their plans to modernise and reconfigure irrigation delivery networks.

"Water will only be recovered from those that choose to participate in the Government's programs through take up of infrastructure grants and voluntary water purchase. The Government will not be cutting anyone's water entitlements or forcing them to sell," Mr. Burke said.

The new initiative will be conducted in two parts.

Irrigators will be invited to submit an expression of interest for water they are considering selling. This phase will be open for four weeks and applicants will not need to submit a price at this stage. If an expression of interest offer meets the government's strict eligibility criteria, irrigators may then be invited to participate in a select tender process expected in early April.

The select tender will run for two weeks during which applicants will be asked to nominate the price they want for their water and provide additional information if required to confirm eligibility against the criteria. Offers invited to the select tender will be assessed for value for money with applicants notified within approximately four weeks whether their sale offer will be pursued.