Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, will be seeking safeguards, and if necessary moving amendments, to Federal Government legislation on the Murray Darling Basin to ensure that South Australian isn’t penalised for being an early adopter of water efficiency measures.
Senator Xenophon welcomed the increased return to the River of 3,200 gigalitres, but cautioned that the new plan would need to ensure:
• That efficiency gains do not lead to net reductions in groundwater recharge, which would mean no gain to the health of the river system;
• That there is an urgent audit of water use, water storage and water evaporation in the Basin;
• That early adopters of water efficiency measures are rewarded;
• That there are rigorous regulatory mechanisms to avoid rorting and waste of public funds;
• That there is an emphasis on community development as well as water efficiency measures;
Senator Xenophon also queried the 12 year time frame for the new plan.
“If a week is a long time in politics, then twelve years is an eternity,” Nick said. “This plan relies on Parliamentary approval and long-term funding, and this Government might not be around to make sure it happens.”
Senator Xenophon pointed to a recent Auditor-General’s report, which was highly critical of a $650 million water efficiency spend in New South Wale because it failed basic accountability principles.
He also referred to a Senate Inquiry’s recent scrutiny of the Nimmie-Caira water buyback deal proposed by the New South Wales Government as being deeply flawed.
“We need to be sure that buckets of money thrown at the Basin don’t give us drops of water in return,” Nick said.
Senator Xenophon also said that any system had to recognise early adopters.
“South Australian irrigators have been working on their water efficiency for over thirty years,” Nick said. “Because they took action into their own hands, they’ve been cut out of the current schemes because they’re already too efficient.”
“It’s time to recognise early adopters of water saving technologies, who spent their own money to solve these problems and lessen their impact on the Basin.”