Coalition raises the bar in the Murray-Darling Basin

Posted by Josette Dunn on 11th August 2010

“Today’s announcement by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of an extra $300 million for on-farm works is a positive new investment in water-saving infrastructure in the Murray-Darling Basin,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie declared.

The NFF has consistently called on the Government to accelerate delivery of water infrastructure projects to keep pace with its water buy-backs in the Basin.

“The extra $300 million announced today is designed to forge a partnership between government and irrigators to improve water-use efficiency, return water savings to the environment and create jobs in regional areas. Expanding these vital upgrades is a positive, holistic approach” said Crombie.

“Over the past two days, announcements by both major political camps have addressed several issues for farmers, communities and environmental needs in the Basin. However, the Coalition has raised the bar by committing to ensuring balance in the new Basin Plan.

“The Coalition states it is committed to achieving sustainability for the rivers of the Murray-Darling and is “equally committed to continuing food and agricultural production in the communities of the Murray-Darling Basin”.

“This is an important point that goes to the very heart of the NFF’s concerns. Balancing food production and environmental needs is essential. Farmers and healthy river systems are co-dependent, so governments must not be blinkered in how they approach water-use in the Basin. This commitment will be a relief to farmers, regional communities and all invested in sound environmental management in the Basin.

“A commitment to a review into social and economic impacts on farms and communities in the Basin is also a major new development. As the Judith Stubbs and Associates research Social and Economic Impacts of Reduced Irrigation Water, released last week, demonstrates, the impact of cuts to water use won’t just be felt by irrigators, but will affect small businesses and communities across regions and metropolitan centres. The Coalition’s acknowledgment of these impacts is important and welcomed.

“The pledge that the Coalition will, like the ALP, invest to close any gap between the old and new cap in the Basin is very positive and will alleviate uncertainty for irrigators.”

The NFF will seek more detail from the Coalition on several aspects of today’s announcement, specifically the $500 million fund to secure Australia’s future water supplies for productive purposes and the proposal to enter the market for temporary water.