The Coalition Government today announced they will bring forward legislation to cap buybacks to 1500 gigalitres, as part of the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, as promised by the Prime Minister in November 2012.

Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt said a legislated cap would deliver another election promise and provide additional security to farmers and irrigators throughout the Murray-Darling Basin – and that was vital.

“The Coalition has always maintained the importance of a triple bottom line approach in the Murray Darling Basin Plan – the cap on buybacks delivers that commitment to communities,” Minister Hunt said.

“The cap on buybacks was one of the key pillars for the Coalition’s support of the Basin Plan in 2012 and we will deliver on this commitment to ensure a good outcome for communities and the environment they rely on. Without a cap, our basin community has no certainty.

“With the certainty of a legislated cap, the farming community can get on with the job of farming, knowing what the Government’s intentions were. I urge Labor to support legislating the cap for the prosperity of our economy and the prosperity of our farming community.”

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, welcomed the announcement, adding that the Coalition always said it would recover water through targeting efficiencies and this cap on buybacks provides certainty to farming communities throughout the basin.

“As a Shadow Minister for Water previously and now Minister for Agriculture, I know just how vital water is to Australian farmers. Water is wealth, stored water is a bank and no water is a drought,” Minister Joyce said.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Bob Baldwin, said the Government was prompted to legislate following concerns raised with him by MPs and Senators in the Murray Darling Basin while on his tour in February.

“When travelling throughout the Basin, the issue that has been raised most often is the need for certainty for communities and farmers, certainty for their businesses and certainty for the environment” Mr Baldwin said.

“Our commitment to delivering the Basin Plan is underpinned by our investment in irrigated agriculture, we have committed over $6 billion to on- and off-farm modernisation and environmental works and measures.

“I also call on Labor to provide support for this legislation, to ensure that the Plan is implemented in full and in a way that ensures that Basin communities remain productive.”

Local MP, Sussan Ley said “bringing better balance to the Basin Plan was a key election pledge for me and setting a buyback limit was pivotal to that promise”.

“Buyback amounts have been a bureaucratic plaything for far too long. This will set a ceiling and provides the certainty our irrigators were looking for.”

The Coalition Government has committed to delivering the Basin Plan by 2019 and the target of returning 2750 Gigalitres to the river system.

The Government has provided $2.3 billion across forward estimates to deliver new on-farm infrastructure and water efficiency programs to farmers across the basin.