Experts have warned that the Albanese government will face a tougher time buying back water to fulfil the Murray-Darling Basin plan. This is due to increased corporatisation, fewer water holders and a socioeconomic impact test that cannot be met.
Ben Williams of water analyst Aither said the volume turning over annually in the southern basin had dropped 60% since 2011-12 – after the last water buybacks under the Rudd government. Williams said it would take a long time to secure significant buybacks in the current market. The government would need to pay a significant premium if it was required in a short timeframe.
He added that 25% of entitlements in the southern basin were already held by environmental water holders. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has already formally advised there would be a shortfall of 750 gigalitres – about 25% of the target – by June 2024.
The environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, announced a further 49 gigalitres of water buybacks in February.
Williams: “That makes it more difficult for anyone to extract large volumes out of the market, whether they’re wanting to buy for commercial reasons or whether it is indeed to the government buying back in this instance for basin plan delivery. But everyone has a price.”