NSW farmer says no to water buybacks
NSW sheep and grain farmer Michael Chalmers is deeply concerned about the government’s proposal to allow water buybacks from farmers in the Murray Darling Basin.
“Further water buybacks would potentially have devastating effects on our farm business and our local community,” he says.
“If I were having a conversation with a politician in Canberra I would ask the question, ‘why are you so fixated on recovering this extra water when it won’t necessarily deliver a tangible benefit to the environment, but it will almost certainly decimate irrigated communities in the Murray Darling Basin?’
The second generation irrigator farms sheep and grain on 4000 hectares at Wakool, southern NSW, with his wife Felicia.
Irrigation is a key component of the family business, with the Chalmers deriving 75 to 80 per cent of their income from irrigated farming.
“Without that irrigation, our farm business wouldn’t be what it is,” Michael says.
The water buybacks form part of the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023, which was introduced to Parliament in September.
The legislation proposes to recover 450 gigalitres of additional environmental water through water buybacks from farmers in the Murray Darling Basin.
It amends the Water Act 2007 and Basin Plan 2012 to repeal the statutory 1,500 gigalitre cap on Commonwealth water purchases that had given farmers like Michael some reprieve over recent years.
“In a community like ours, all businesses are related in some way to irrigated agriculture, so if we have less water you’ll see a reduction in jobs, sporting clubs will diminish, and there will be a loss of services in town — the whole community suffers when you reduce access to water.”
Michael is calling on parliamentarians to support farmers and rural communities by saying no to the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill and saying no to water buybacks.
“If you value Aussie grown, protect Aussie farms. Keep Farmers Farming,” he said.