Traditional Owners speak out on water buy-back cap

Media Release: 28th May 2015

The peak body of Traditional owners from the Southern Murray Darling Basin has expressed concern about the impacts of a Bill brought into Federal Parliament today to limit buy-backs of water for the environment at 1500 gigalitres (GL).

Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) Chair Darren Perry called for improved consultation with Traditional Owners across the Basin.

‘This Bill has the potential to affect delivery of the Basin Plan targets. First Nations across the Basin want to see our rivers returned to health and we should be consulted directly on any measure which could affect that,’ Mr Perry said. ‘The free, prior and informed consent of Traditional Owners should be sought on these important matters that affect our ability to care for country.’

‘MLDRIN supports efforts and initiatives to increase the efficiency of farming and irrigation. However, this Bill is likely to significantly increase the cost of achieving water recovery required to implement the Basin Plan,’ Mr Perry said.

‘Capping purchases of water entitlements for the environment at 1,500 GL/year makes no sense for the environment or the economy,’ said Australian National University Professor R. Quentin Grafton. ‘To reach the sustainable diversion limits under the Basin Plan the only alternative to buying water entitlements will be to acquire water through infrastructure subsidies. But subsidies to acquire water for the environment cost, on average, at least three times more per volume of water obtained,’ Professor Grafton said.

‘Any decision that makes it more expensive and more difficult to secure adequate water to sustain our culturally significant landscapes, species and heritage sites could have a detrimental impact on Aboriginal people,’ Darren Perry said.

‘We are also concerned that an over-reliance on infrastructure and works and measures to achieve environmental outcomes entails increased impacts on significant landscapes and cultural heritage sites. We have already seen extremely important cultural heritage sites disturbed. Rolling out a huge infrastructure program across the Basin will impact on our cultural heritage and ability to care for country,’ Mr Perry said.

‘We are calling on the Government to come to Traditional Owners to talk about these potential impacts and negotiate outcomes that benefit our culture, environment and community development,’ Mr Perry said.

‘Overall, this Bill has the potential to negatively impact First Nations and Aboriginal culture across the Basin. Traditional Owners should be fully consulted in this process to ensure that their rights and interests are not undermined,’ Mr Perry said.

Contact: Darren Perry (Chair) 0417837549, Will Mooney (Executive Officer) 0404 163 700

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