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Solving river issues beyond buybacks

Barwon-Darling Water spokesman Ian Cole on a flooded Darling River at Bourke. Photo TWH

As Commonwealth bureaucrats moved through Bourke and Walgett this week looking for more water to buy back from farmers, local irrigators are calling for government to move beyond buybacks if they are serious about tackling the greatest environmental threats in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Barwon-Darling Water spokesman Ian Cole called on government to move beyond the simplistic plan of ‘just adding more water’.

“The focus and sense of urgency must shift,” Mr Cole said. “The biggest threats in the river include invasive species like carp, habitat degradation, blocked fish passage, and town water supplies during droughts.

“Buying back more water from farmers won’t fix those issues,” he said.

“The 2100 billion litres recovered under the basin plan so far is delivering environmental benefits, but if the real degradation drivers are not addressed, then just adding water will only be tinkering around the edges.”

Mr Cole’s comments come as the federal government pushes ahead with plans to buy back a further 1900 million litres from the productive pool in the Barwon-Darling.

“We’ve seen billions of dollars spent buying water, reducing the capacity to grow food and fibre, and maintain a steady economic foundation to keep our towns alive.

“Where is the same sense of urgency and funding to address the carp plague?

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