Federal Member for New England Barnaby Joyce has welcomed the announcement that up to 10 gigalitres of water allocation will be available for sale in the Gwydir Valley.
This is the first time the water holder has traded environmental water since its inception in 2008. The headwaters of the Gwydir River are west of Armidale and Guyra on the New England Tableland.
Mr Joyce said the sale will be via an open tender process that will commence at 10am on Tuesday 21 January 2014. Tenders must be submitted by 3pm, 23 January.
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder is selling a small portion of its annual allocations; it is not selling permanent water entitlements.
Mr Joyce said he supported his colleague, Parliamentary Secretary for Water Senator Simon Birmingham, in measures to deal with the current drought through the temporary trade of environmental water.
“In times where the economic future of so many irrigators is on the line it seems entirely appropriate to utilise water that is held in the dams on the environmental account but which is not currently used for environmental purposes,” he said.
“We have a cotton crop that is a couple of waters away from delivering billions of dollars to the Australian economy.
“We have horticulture plantings that need a drink or Australian farming families will lose millions in agricultural investment.
“We have the capacity to trade water to alleviate these problems and, when it rains again, and it will, this water account can be replenished. In the interim, we can use the water that is available to deal with the problems of the drought that are with us right now.”
Mr Joyce said the additional water allocation for communities in the Gwydir Valley was a forward step for local families.
“Water is wealth and 2.1 million people in the basin are underpinned by the wealth of the Murray-Darling system,” he said.
“These people are not all irrigators. They are people who own the local tyre shop, work behind counters in grocery stores or are self-funded retirees. Their financial situation is equally dependent on the ebbs and flows of this vast water system.”
“The government has a responsibility to ensure the social and economic fundamentals of these communities are considered in any policy decision regarding the Murray Darling catchment.”