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Murray Darling Plan can be a win-win

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Media Release 26th October 2012 Murray Darling Plan can be a win-win The fine detail of the Murray Darling Basin Plan will need close scrutiny in determining the impacts of today’s Prime Ministerial announcement. This is the belief of the Independent Member for New England, Tony Windsor. The Prime Minister is proposing to return an additional 450 billion litres of water to the Murray Darling system between 2019 and 2024 by paying for $1.7 billion worth of water-saving infrastructure and removing some of the constraints in the system. Mr Windsor says that the actual number of gigalitres is less important than the nett effect of the environmental works and measures (which achieves a similar environmental outcome with less water) and on-farm efficiencies (which achieves a similar on-farm outcome with less water) on communities in the Murray Darling Basin. Mr Windsor, who chaired the Regional Australia Committee Inquiry into the Murray Darling system says that in theory the Prime Minister’s statement fitted with recommendations made by the committee but there was real need for clarification of some of the detail. “The Parliament recently passed an amendment to the 2007 Water Act which enabled an automatic adjustment of sustainable diversion limits of up to plus or minus 5% of total sustainable diversion limits (10,000 gigalitres). “That would allow for an upward escalation of 500 gigalitres on the basis of increased on-farm and delivery efficiencies and a downward movement of 500 gigalitres to environmental works and measures. “It is believed that the States have up to 650 gigalitres of proposed environmental works and measures that they will recommend,” Mr Windsor said. Mr Windsor believes that some key questions need to be answered. These include: 1. Which comes first - do environmental works and measures precede the on-farm savings? 2. Does the Government rule out adhoc buybacks of water entitlements? 3. What role is envisaged for a strategic buyback of water entitlements? He agrees that the “Rules review” is a good idea and it was a recommendation of the Regional Australia Committee initial Inquiry. Mr Windsor is also calling for transparency through the release of two plans - the water recovery strategy and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder water trading plan as recommended by the Committee’s second Inquiry into certain matters arising from the first Inquiry. “Whilst it is complicated, there is a win-win here for the people of the Murray Darling Basin and also for the environment. “The more information that can be made available to the community, the better chance of success,” Mr Windsor said.