NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson has followed through on her threat to bypass the Commonwealth, today introducing a cap on water buybacks towards Murray-Darling Basin Plan environmental targets.
In November, Ms Hodgkinson drafted an order under the Water Management Act which would cap buyback at three per cent per valley, per decade.
"Effective from today, the NSW government will restrict the amount of water which the Commonwealth government can purchase for the environment as part of its Murray-Darling Basin Plan," Ms Hodgkinson said in a statement.
"We tried to work collaboratively with the Commonwealth to find strategies that will improve water use efficiency, allow basin communities to adjust, and make water available for environmental flows, however NSW has been brushed aside.
"The Commonwealth government has ignored the very real concerns of NSW basin communities about the potential size and pace of an environmental water buyback program, so the NSW government has been forced to act.
"From today, further water purchases for the environment will be restricted to three per cent per valley per decade, a more sustainable rate of purchase which will provide much needed breathing space and time for rural economies to adjust."
In November, Ms Hodgkinson said she would have stopped the introduction of the order if the Commonwealth had addressed NSW concerns over buybacks, structural adjustment and groundwater sustainable diversion limits.
At the time, Environment Minister Tony Burke said the NSW government would have to look "long and hard" to ensure it did not breach new water trading principles to be formalised in July 2014.
Mr Burke has previously said there was no need to write a cap on buybacks into the Basin Plan, as the document gave the States the power to limit buyback by putting forward projects to improve water use efficiency.
Ms Hodgkinson today said the NSW government consistently sought the Commonwealth's agreement to ensure the focus of water recovery was on infrastructure, environmental works and measures and strategic purchases rather than open purchase tenders.
"However the Commonwealth has ignored our legitimate concerns, and has expected us to sign up and trust them, which is dangerously short sighted," she said.
"Once the personalities have moved on, what remains will be in black and white, so it is important that we get this right."
Ms Hodgkinson said once the 3pc limit was reached in a valley, no more purchases for environmental purposes would be approved and processed by NSW.
"It is important to note that this restriction has no impact on trade for consumptive purposes, licence transfers that are part of an infrastructure project, or temporary trades of allocation water," she said.
"The NSW government will not stand by and allow the Commonwealth to take the lazy option which removes water from productive purposes in NSW."