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Transcript 16072

New Measures to deal with the Critical Situation in the Murray-Darling Basin

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/08/2008

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 16072

The Rudd Government today announced three sets of new water initiatives to help deal with the critical situation in the Murray Darling Basin.

These new initiatives will build on the Governments Water for the Future Plan by improving water management in the Murray Darling Basin.

These initiatives were finalised by Cabinet in Adelaide today where the full Cabinet met to discuss the critical situation in the Murray Darling Basin.

The new Basin-wide initiatives announced today include:

* The first comprehensive, detailed and externally reviewed audit of both public and private water storages in the Basin.

* Initiating a new basin-wide tender in 2008-09; and expanding the previously announced Queensland tender to include northern NSW and increasing funding for this program by $50 million to $400 million.

* A Commonwealth-State initiative to co-fund the purchase of properties holding large water entitlements, particularly in the northern Basin.

The Cabinet today received a briefing on the Lower Lakes from the Murray Darling Basin Commission on the state of the Lower Lakes. The Cabinet confirmed that if the South Australian Government, based on the advice of experts, finds that it has become absolutely necessary to open the Lakes to sea water, the Commonwealth will consider any such proposals.

In addition, Cabinet today decided to become a co-investor with the South Australian Government in any future expansion of its desalination plant at Point Stanvac from its current proposed 50 Gigalitres to a possible expanded capacity of 80-100 Gigalitres.

Cabinet also decided to accelerate the $120 million SA pipeline project to secure water supplies for Lower Lakes communities. This project will involve connecting Lower Lakes communities to water supplies further upstream at Tailem Bend.

The new initiatives announced today are designed to help the nation meet the huge challenges we face in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Whole-of-Basin Initiatives

1. Murray-Darling Basin Water Audit

The Murray Darling Basin Commission will finalise a detailed and comprehensive audit of water availability in both private and public storages across the Basin within the next month.

This is in response to the South Australian Government requesting more information on Basin water storages.

This will be updated every three months with the information made publicly available.

Initial advice on current water availability was released by the Commission last week, and we have requested that this report be completed and released within a month.

We will seek the assistance of an international auditing company to review the methodology used by the Commission in producing the audit.

It is important that we ensure communities across the Basin have a clear understanding of the scale of the problem in the Murray-Darling Basin.

2. Purchasing water entitlements to return to the Basin's rivers and wetlands

In response to concerns expressed by the South Australian Government, the Federal Government will further accelerate water purchasing activities following the success of the first-ever Federal Government water purchase earlier this year.

This will ensure rivers and wetlands across the Basin get a greater share of water when it becomes available in the future.

The Government's new Murray-Darling Basin water purchase plan includes:

* Initiating the $80 million of water purchasing in South Australia;

* Conducting the Queensland water tender, including extending it to accept water entitlements from properties elsewhere in the northern basin and near Menindee Lakes and extending the existing commitment of $350 million to $400 million subject to the water being securable against downstream interception;

* Initiating a new Basin-wide water purchase tender in 2008-09;

* Working with irrigation communities to buyout water entitlements from areas willing to move out of irrigation, facilitated by a price premium reflecting the value of water savings from closure of infrastructure such as supply channels; and

* Working with State Governments to co-fund the purchase of appropriately located irrigation properties and their water entitlements to enhance environmental outcomes in the northern basin.

3. Allowing water to go to where it brings most benefit by freeing up water trade in the Basin

The Commonwealth will actively pursue the implementation of water reform initiatives necessary to ensure the lifting of the 4 per cent limit on water and the application of that limit on a consistent basis as soon as possible.

4. Rolling out the Government's $5.8 billion commitment to making irrigation infrastructure more efficient and achieve water savings

This includes accelerating projects such as the New South Wales government's efforts to reduce evaporation and achieve water savings at Menindee Lakes to help secure Broken Hill's water supply and, in the longer term, provide greater flows to the Murray.

5. Establishing the new independent Murray-Darling Basin Authority by the end of the year, which will implement a new Basin Plan in 2011 including a new sustainable cap on water use

Transcript 16072