More money for EAA flows
The Federal Government will spend millions buying water from a company it has been criticised for buying from before.
Up to $2 million will be paid to Queensland agribusiness Eastern Australia Agriculture to keep an internationally significant wetlands from dying.
It is the same company that the LNP government paid $80 million for water rights for the same purpose three years ago.
That $80 million purchase was made without tender by the former agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce, who said he undertook direct negotiations to benefit the Ramsar-listed Narran Lakes.
The EAA purchase is under scrutiny by the Australian National Audit Office and in the Senate, because energy minister Angus Taylor was a founder of the company.
EAA is itself owned by a company based in the Cayman Islands tax haven, so there is very limited information is available on shareholders and investors.
Mr Taylor says he cut his connections with the company before becoming an MP in 2013, played no role in the water purchase and was not aware of it until it was announced.
The commonwealth has now actually received any water from the licences it paid for in 2017, but the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) says recent rains mean some of the ‘overland flows’ may now be available.
The CEWH now says it needs additional water to save the Narran Lakes wetlands.
“In these dry times, it’s important to get the water where the environment most needs it. We are trialling an innovative approach to getting water into Narran Lakes to give important wetland habitat a chance to survive the drought,” CEWH Jody Swirepik said.
“The water will be used to get vegetation in this core area of the internationally important Narran Lakes ready for the birds to nest in the future,” said Prof Richard Kingsford, director of the centre for ecosystem science at the University of NSW.
The exact amount to be spent reimbursing EAA will be calculated at the end of the financial year, but insiders have suggested it will be up to $2 million.