Water Week

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Qld defers auction though experts question caps on water use in Murray-Darling basin: States free to continue over-allocating water licences despite commonwealth basin takeover

Posted by waterweek on 2 October 2007

According to Greg Roberts in The Australian, (25/09/2007, p.4), water experts were questioning whether caps on water use in the basin under new federal legislation could be enforced.

Warrego issue raises doubts: The doubts were raised as Queensland Premier Anna Bligh submitted to pressure from John Howard and deferred indefinitely a controversial proposal to sell eight billion litres of water a year from the Warrego River, a Murray-Darling tributary.

A matter of honour: “In all the circumstances, it is not possible for the auction to go ahead,” Bligh said. “I understand that the irrigators will be disappointed. I hope they understand that the state cannot proceed in the face of a request from the Prime Minister.”

No Federal control: Under the takeover plan, Canberra was spending $6 billion buying back water licences that had been over-allocated by the states. Water expert Peter Cullen said that as there was no central authority over allocations, it was not clear how Canberra could enforce caps on water use under the takeover legislation.

Qld authorized to sell Warrego water: Federal Water Resources Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Howard had conceded in a letter to Bligh that Queensland still had the constitutional power to sell the Warrego allocations. Environmentalists and the NSW Government had also opposed the sale of the Warrego allocations.

Howard backtracks: In March, Howard had approved the auctions in a letter to Bligh’s predecessor, Peter Beattie, saying they were consistent with the Warrego’s water-sharing plan.

The Australian, 25/9/2007, p. 4

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