The National Irrigators’ Council has welcomed the National Water Commission’s progress report on water reform in Australia, agreeing that a new push is required to continue to implement reforms first agreed seven years ago.

NIC CEO Danny O’Brien said the National Water Initiative signed in 2004 remained the foundation of water policy in Australia but much of it is still not implemented and the commitment to triple bottom line outcomes in water planning has slipped in recent years.

“We support the bulk of the NWI because, among other things, it helped entrench irrigators’ propertyrights but there is still much work to be done.

“For example, there is still limited action by state governments to address the water impacts of interception activities such as farm dams and forestry plantations.

“Interception has a significant impact on irrigators’ rights and we’re seeing that played out now with the Murray Darling Basin Plan where 20 per cent of water used is for interception activities, but no cuts will be applied to those activities. That is blatantly unfair on irrigators and the communities that rely on them.”

Mr O’Brien said not all aspects of the NWI were supported by irrigators but as an agreed reform, it should be seen through.

“There are some really good things in the NWI but a great number of them have yet to be implemented. We agree with the NWC that there really needs to be a suite of incentives for governments if some of these reforms are to be delivered.

“We also support the recommendation for a greater investment in the science of water because too many decisions are being made on the basis of inadequate science that have a material effecton communities and food and fibre producers. The Basin Plan is a classic example of this.

“It’s also relevant in the area of coal seam gas development where we share the NWC’s concern about potential impacts on water, particularly groundwater.

“Most critically we need governments –including the Commonwealth and the Murray Darling Basin Authority –to recommit to the triple bottom line principles that are espoused in the NWI.

“Water reform will not be sucessful unless it considers the social and economic values of the community as well as the environmental.”

Media Contact: Danny O’Brien (02) 6273 3637 or 0438 130 445