You are here

Artesian basin water auction sells out environment and farmers

Media release
20 July 2009

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon is calling on the NSW government to halt tomorrow's auction of 1,200 mega litres of water from the Artesian Basin in Walgett that was saved through the Commonwealth and landowners' funded Cap and Pipe the Bores Program.

"Premier Nathan Rees should invest in scientific research to clarify what levels of groundwater use in the artesian basin are sustainable rather then undertake this ill-advised sell off," Ms Rhiannon said.

"Farmers who adopted more sustainable land use practices to improve the basin's health and water pressure are justifiably angry that the government is now flogging it off to other users.

"Selling licenses to outfits like mining and processing companies shows that the government is willing to put corporate profits before the needs of farmers and the natural environment.

"The auction is the thin edge of the wedge for future water trading in the basin and threatens sensitive groundwater dependent ecosystems which sustain native birds, animals, insects, fish and plants.

"This precious water supply should not be flogged off. This is a crude money grab by the Rees government.

"There is no clear scientific evidence yet available on the amount of groundwater can be sustainably extracted from the basin without damaging fragile ecosystems.

"The basin, which lies beneath 22 percent of Australia, contains thousands of springs that help preserve rare bird, animal and plant species.

"Climate change will exacerbate the importance of keeping these springs healthy, with the anticipated increase in drought conditions.

"The auction of 39 percent of water saved annually under the Cap and Pipe the Bores Program is a kick in the teeth for farmers.

"On current prices the government is set to make approximately $2.6 million from the first auction and $28 million from the Cap and Pipe the Bores Program over the next ten years.

"The NSW government should postpone this auction," Ms Rhiannon said.