Nationals leader David Littleproud has lamented the lack of a bipartisan approach to the Murray-Darling Basin plan, arguing the original plan was already on track to meet the needs of the community and the environment.
The government's controversial rethink of the plan passed the Senate on Thursday morning with the support of the Greens and other crossbenchers, and must now return to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to be ushered through.
But Mr Littleproud described it as a "dark day for basin communities" which had re-opened old social and economic wounds.
"We would have completed the Murray-Darling Basin plan on the trajectory and the bipartisanship that Tony Burke and I achieved some years ago, in making sure that we could use infrastructure rather than buybacks to return water to the environment," Mr Littleproud said.
"Buybacks actually decimate the communities. You take the water away from the consumptive pool around the production of agriculture."
Mr Littleproud said communities had followed to the "letter of the law" the plan set out in 2012 by Labor's then-Water Minister Tony Burke, but COVID had disrupted progress on infrastructure projects.
He said the Nationals supported a timeline extension to complete the plan, but said a target to recover 450 gigalitres of environmental water was only additional and further buybacks were not warranted.
"Now they have shifted the goalposts, they have torn up their very own legislation, but they have torn up basin communities," Mr Littleproud said.
"The men and women in these regional communities that have small businesses that employ people, they're the ones that are going to bear the brunt of this.
"If you take away the tools that farmers need to produce your food and fibre, then there's less of it and your prices are going to go up.
"All [this government] has done in the last 18 months is drive up your cost of living and divided this country. And now they are dividing rural Australia against the city, because of this ideology of this government in an act of absolute bastardry."