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Water stakeholder Consol. Ctee. must evaluate social impacts of water buybacks.

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The Hon John Cobb MP Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Water Security

The Water Stakeholder Consultative Committee announced today by Minister Wong must look at the socio-economic impacts on rural communities in the Murray Darling Basin of buying back $3.1 billion worth of water entitlements.

Shadow Minister for Water Security, John Cobb said the 2008 Budget made shows no sign of the $1.5 billion structural adjustment package set aside by the Coalition Government to help rural communities recover from the loss of productive capacity because of water entitlement cut backs.

''Irrigation is a huge economic driver in rural and regional communities.

''There are many businesses reliant on the irrigation industry and as the drought has demonstrated without water these businesses are doing it very tough. Already job losses and the loss of population is having a severe impact on many communities in the Murray Darling Basin.

''Minister Wong can not ignore the impact of buying $3.1 billion worth of water entitlements will have on rural communities in the Basin.

''The members of the Water Stakeholder Consultative Committee are more than qualified to investigate the socio-economic impact of buying water entitlements.

Mr Cobb said there terms of reference should also be widened to include looking at exit fees on selling water out of irrigation schemes and the need to retain the 4 percent cap on moving water out of any irrigation district per year.

''These cap and exit fees are a very important tool to ensure that expensive assets are not stranded and that communities reliant on irrigation are not destroyed.

''A major complaint with the $50 million water buyback which closed on Friday was the lack of transparency.

''The Government must ensure that sellers are aware of price of water and they should be doing this by posting all sale prices immediately on to an easily accessible website.

''I would also be disappointed if this group did not also look at the whether irrigation infrastructure can provide the bulk of the water savings being sort by the Labor Government.

''Yesterday ACIL Tasman released a report showing up to 950 gigalitres could be saved in the basin by modernising both in system and on farm irrigation systems.

''Of the 950 gigalitres, 637 gigalitres could be recovered at a cheaper price than purchasing the water.

''To date Minister Wong has failed to clarify exactly what her priorities for water security in the Murray Darling Basin are, nor has she confirmed which of the $1.017 billion of pre-election promises contain in ''Labor's National Plan to Tackle the Water Crisis she is planning to break.

''Projects promised by the Labor Party were all about being elected and are not part of a coherent approach to addressing the issues affecting the Murray Darling Basin.

Mr Cobb said the Government is either planning to break its promises or the $1.635 billion on-farm efficiency program has been abolished, so too has the $1.5 billion structural adjustment program for communities which will be devastated by the loss of their irrigation industries, also missing is $620 million for metering, monitoring and accounting and $500 million for improving river operations and storage.