The Australian Government is delivering on its commitment to Murray-Darling Basin communities, today introducing legislation for a 1500 gigalitre cap on water purchases in the Basin.

Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt said the Water Amendment Bill 2015 would ensure certainty for Murray Darling Basin communities.

“The 1500 gigalitre cap on water purchases was a key pre-election commitment by the Coalition and our plan has always been to deliver on this commitment to ensure the Basin Plan is delivered with a triple bottom line focus,” Minister Hunt said.

“This Government has prioritised infrastructure investment as its primary method for recovering water to improve the Basin environment.

“I stress that 1500 gigalitres is not a target – it’s a ceiling – and we’ll stand by it and continue to prioritise funding that invests in our community’s future.”

Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said there were already very good results from both off-farm and on-farm infrastructure projects and more than 10,000 individual irrigators were benefitting from infrastructure renewal and upgrades.

“Infrastructure returns, combined with supply measure projects, should deliver sufficient offsets so that water purchases will remain well under the 1500 gigalitre cap, while improving farm productivity and efficiency,” Minister Joyce said.

“Most importantly this will provide certainty for the agriculture sector and ensure our farmers continue to be world leaders. This legislation is another Coalition commitment to our farming businesses.”

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment Bob Baldwin said the Government was listening to all stakeholders to ensure triple bottom line outcomes for Basin communities, economies and environments.

“As I’ve travelled through the Basin, the issue that has been raised most often is the need for greater certainty for communities and farmers, certainty for their businesses and certainty for the environment,” Mr Baldwin said.

“This legislation will also provide greater flexibility to include off-farm projects as efficiency measures under the Water for the Environment Special Account. This will increase access to funds to improve our irrigation delivery networks.

“There is now an opportunity for the opposition to work with us and support this legislation to ensure win-win outcomes for Basin communities and the Basin environment.”