Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment
Parliamentary Secretary touring northern Basin
21 October 2013
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment Simon Birmingham today begins three days of meetings in the northern Murray-Darling Basin as part of a program of community engagement and consultation.
Senator Birmingham will meet with community representatives in Moree, St George, Goondiwindi and Narromine on his first visit to the northern Basin since being appointed last month as Parliamentary Secretary with particular responsibility for water.
"After four years in the shadow portfolio I'm no stranger to a lot of the issues but I'm really eager to get out and discuss issues on the ground," Senator Birmingham said today.
"I want to be open and accessible to people in the Basin and local knowledge is vital to ensure Commonwealth programs meet their objectives whilst addressing the interests of landholders and the community.
"There are a number of issues concerning the Basin Plan and its implementation that are yet to be settled, particularly in the north, and I am encouraging community representatives to share their views on these matters.
"I'm also keen to reinforce that the Government will implement the Basin Plan in full and on time but in a way that preserves the food and fibre productive capacity of the Murray-Darling Basin including as Australia's primary food bowl.
"We will be re-phasing four years of water buyback spending over six years, as well as capping buybacks overall and we are working with the states to deliver offset targets via agreed environmental works and measures.
"In Queensland, for example, at least half of the water being returned under the $154.7 million Healthy HeadWaters Water Use Efficiency Project will go to the northern Basin's many large and important wetlands and environmental sites including in the Condamine-Balonne and Border Rivers.
"Our challenge is to work together with stakeholders to get the best outcomes for our rivers and the communities and industries that rely upon them and I look forward this week to discussing these matters further."