Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon. Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

New Murray-Darling water purchase rounds in the northern basin

Media release
21 September 2011

Water Minister Tony Burke today announced three new water purchasing tenders in the northern Murray Darling Basin.

Two tenders for water purchases in the Queensland Lower Balonne will open on September 26 and 14 November 2011, respectively. Each of these tenders will make available up to $60 million. A separate water purchase tender will open in the Namoi and Border Rivers on October 17 with up to $30 million available. Each of these water purchase tenders will be open for four weeks.

"I am determined that Murray Darling Basin reform delivers healthy rivers, strong communities and sustainable food production," Mr Burke said.

"We can achieve this by investing in infrastructure upgrades and improving the efficiency and productivity of our irrigation industry while we also recover water for the rivers.

"The water purchased will be used to improve the health of Murray Darling Basin rivers, wetlands and floodplains and will complement the Gillard Government's major investments in more efficient irrigation water delivery and use.

"The tenders are a step toward meeting the environmental watering needs of three northern Basin catchments in the lead up to the release of the draft Basin Plan later this year.

"These water purchase tenders will take place in catchments where the Murray Darling Basin Authority has indicated that further strategic water recovery will be required."

In addition to having local unmet environmental needs, the Lower Balonne, Border Rivers and the Namoi catchments are also well connected to the Barwon-Darling system. Purchases in these catchments can also make a contribution to the downstream needs of the Barwon-Darling system.

"These water purchase tenders will take place in northern Basin catchments with little, if any, shared water infrastructure to minimise so-called Swiss-Cheese effects," Mr Burke said.

"I am still considering options for future water purchase in the Southern Basin, where shared water infrastructure is more widespread and issues of strategic water recovery are more complex. This is consistent with the Windsor Inquiry's recommendation for a more strategic approach to water purchase.

"These tenders are about ensuring a regular, measured, market presence so the Government is in a position to purchase water when opportunities arise and people who wish to sell water to the Commonwealth can do so."

The tenders are part of the Gillard Government's $3.1 billion Restoring the Balance in the Murray-Darling Basin program, under its Water for the Future Initiative.

The Government only buys water entitlements from irrigators who choose to offer water for sale. A sale proceeds only if the price is acceptable to both the buyer and the seller.

Guidelines and the application forms for the first Lower Balonne tender will be available from September 26 by calling 1800 218 478 or visiting www.environment.gov.au/waterpurchasing. Guidelines for subsequent tenders will be available through the same avenues after each tender opens.