Water Week

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Qld: Warrego River water licence auction: Private trust backed by six environment groups to attempt to buy new water licences

Posted by waterweek on 21 September 2007

A bid by the Nature Conservation Water Trust backed by six environment groups would attempt to buy new Warrego River water licences due to be auctioned by the Queensland Government next week – the first of its kind in Australia where a private group of conservationists would go head to head with agriculture businesses to buy water for the environment, reported The Sydney Morning Herald, (11/09/2007, p.7).
The last resort: “All other avenues have been closed off,” said Professor Richard Kingsford, a wetlands expert from the University of New South Wales who was advising the trust. “The auction date has inexorably been coming on us with no action to stop it.” The new trust’s backers included National Parks Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Inland Rivers Network and the Wilderness Society.

Trust raising $2.5m to secure licences: A member of the new water trust had registered to bid at the auction and Kingsford said it was now trying to raise $2.5 million in the next week to secure the licences. Some money had already been collected and local graziers were “handing around the hat”.

Pvt ownership may threaten wetlands: Kingsford was also concerned that if the water licences were bought by private irrigators the survival of the Warrego and the Paroo wetlands attached to it would be under threat from cotton and crop development. The Paroo was considered one of the last natural wetland refuges in New South Wales for many inland bird species, including brolgas, egrets and the speckled duck.

NSW graziers, environmentalists protest: The auction was being held just over the border from New South Wales and was being strongly opposed by New South Wales environmentalists and graziers who feared it would cut flows to flood-plain properties in north-western New South Wales outside Bourke.

Graziers to call upon Federal, Qld Govt: A meeting of local graziers would take place on Thursday where they would again call on the Federal and Queensland governments to halt the auction.

Turnbull urges Beattie to review decision: Last Friday the Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, made a plea to the outgoing Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, to review the auction. His assistant minister, the National Party’s John Cobb, called for the auction to be delayed, calling it “ridiculous”, while the former deputy prime minister John Anderson described the Queensland actions as “provocative and unhelpful”.

Last auction in the system: The auction of 8000 megalitres of water from the Warrego River on 18 and 19 September, by the State Government, would be the last water licence auction allowed on the Murray-Darling system.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 11/9/2007, p. 7

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