Murray Darling irrigation cuts will devastate dairy – QFF

Posted by Josette Dunn on 13th October 2010

The Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation firmly believes that foreshadowed irrigation cuts in the Murray Darling Basin would have a devastating impact on farmers and their families, the dairy industry and rural communities.

Last week, the Murray Darling Basin Authority announced its guide to the Proposed Basin Plan. It announced massive cutbacks to Queensland surface water ranging from 27% to 37%, and even higher in less-developed river systems where the cuts could be as high as 45%. QDO is adamant that these levels of cutbacks would absolutely savage farms reliant on irrigation water.

QDO President Brian Tessmann said there were also major concerns for significant reductions from current use from groundwater areas in the Condamine catchment. The guide has foreshadowed cuts of 34% for the Condamine Plain groundwater area and 20% for groundwater access in the creeks draining the main range.

“These reductions will have a significant impact on the Darling Downs dairy industry, as most dairy farms in this area are dependent on these groundwater resources,” Mr Tessmann said.

He added that the impact across the industry overall would be devastating.

“For the dairy industry in the Basin, the future of some 2600 farms, 6000 on-farm jobs and 2600 manufacturing and processing jobs are on the line,” he said.

“These cuts would see production fall, farms and factories close, jobs lost, asset values fall, regional service business decline and regional communities suffer. Rather than building regional Australia, this approach will see it depopulated and less attractive to live and invest.

“In addition to some ridiculous figures presented in the guide, the guide does not even recognise the dairy industry that exits in the Queensland section of the basin.”

Mr Tessmann said QDO and all its affiliate bodies would be looking for the Murray Darling Basin Authority and Water Minister Tony Burke to restore sense to its planning with this guide.

“In Queensland, dairy farmers have shown themselves to be good custodians of the land and water and effective environmental managers.

“Over the last decade through our water efficiency program our farmers have made huge gains in water use efficiency and this should be recognised. Minister Burke has seen such improvements first hand this year on a Queensland dairy farm, which has recently implemented a new computer controlled centre pivot irrigation system.

“Any plan needs to allow farmers to not only continue in business but to thrive so that they can efficiently produce the food that the population and the economy needs while protecting and enhancing environmental outcomes. The plan should beyond just cuts; it needs to look at efficiency and at the same time new sources of water for the basin should be investigated.”