Water buybacks scrapped as Cth props up MDB communities

The Federal Government will end contentious buybacks of water entitlements from Murray-Darling Basin irrigators and subsidise water infrastructure on farms instead.

Announcing the Murray-Darling Communities Investment Package last week, Water Minister Keith Pitt said upgrading infrastructure for farming irrigators will ensure  greater water savings than buybacks while maximising benefits for Basin communities.

A recent review of buybacks by the National Audit Office found many of these taxpayer-funded deals represented poor value for money.

The investment package comprises 11 new initiatives to improve transparency in water management and maximise water recovery while minimising impacts on farmers and communities.

Communities struggling with the effects of water recovery will get $34 million in economic assistance from the Commonwealth, while $20 million will go to funding projects to improve the health of rivers and wetlands.

Investments in off-farm water efficiency projects to increase water recovery will also be a focus of the package, and $37.6 million will be earmarked to pay for projects to sustain South Australian Riverland environments.

A further $38.7 million will go towards improving Commonwealth water compliance functions.