Buckingham to Blair Northern Basin Water Allocations 5 May 2016

Northern Basin Water Allocations

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM ( 15:15 :05 ): My question without notice is to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. I recently visited southern Queensland where I saw a large amount of cotton coming off Cubbie Station and irrigated farms near St George and Dirranbandi. Can the Minister update the House on the representations he previously stated he would make to the Queensland Government regarding water allocations in the Darling, Culgoa, Condamine and Balonne river systems?

The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water) ( 15:15 : 40 ): I would be delighted to update the House because I recently made representations—I am trying to remember; I do not want to mislead the House—two or three Fridays ago when the water Ministers met in Brisbane. Not only did I make representations but I did it on their turf. One issue I raised on behalf of New South Wales was the Northern Basin Review and the work that is being done by the Murray‑Darling Basin Authority.

New South Wales has met a lot of its obligations under that review, including the water recovery that has occurred from our system. Queensland is lagging behind, and that frustrates me as the New South Wales Minister for Lands and Water. Indeed, I have commented at every ministerial council meeting that the results of the Northern Basin Review are outstanding—meaning they are overdue. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority engaged consultants to conduct this review but, unfortunately, they made a mess of it and we had to engage another set of consultants. They messed up part of the socioeconomic review relating to the northern communities, which for a long time have relied upon a strong agricultural sector and the use of productive water.

That is the first matter I have addressed with my Queensland counterparts. The other measure—and it was a win at the ministerial council, on behalf of the people of New South Wales—was to make sure as we move through the key decision points of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan that New South Wales continues to advocate for infrastructure projects to deliver water savings. We need to start thinking outside the box in order to deliver those water savings and so that we do not see productive water being purchased out of New South Wales and flowing downstream to South Australia and then eventually out to sea.

If that water and those savings can be made through infrastructure projects or projects such as the carp eradication program, we know that we can do great things for the environment and our agricultural sector. Significantly, at the last ministerial council meeting, all States and the Commonwealth agreed to look at non-flow related projects to help bridge the gap, particularly for the sustainable diversion limit [SDL] projects and the required 650 gigalitres.

What does that mean for New South Wales? If we can stop the release of cold water or black water events in our river systems, then we can deliver proper outcomes for the environment, such as the eradication of carp or the prevention of the death of fish populations. It will mean that we will not have to enter the market and buy productive water from our producers in regional New South Wales, and it will ensure that we have better rivers, more productive regional businesses and better socioeconomic outcomes for the people of regional New South Wales.

I thank the member for the Dixer. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to stand up and show that we are advocating on behalf of all of New South Wales and that if we have to have uncomfortable conversations with other States or the Commonwealth we will.


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