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The National Water Initiative and earlier water reforms have committed Australian governments to redressing environmental degradation caused by excessive extraction from rivers and groundwater systems. To date, the states, territories and commonwealth have identified a range of alternatives for achieving the requisite resource re-allocation. Unfortunately, there has been a predilection amongst policy makers to treat voluntary acquisition of access rights from irrigators as a ‘last resort’ in the suite of options. This paper explores the rationale for this approach and questions the use of incomplete information by bureaucrats, policy makers and water lobby groups in this context.


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