The National Irrigators’ Council (NIC) today expressed its disappointment and frustration over the continued downgrading of ‘practical’ agricultural research which is in direct contradiction to recommend ation 14 of the Windsor Inquiry

The CEO of NIC, Tom Chesson said hopes of a last minute reprieve for the former CSIRO research station at Merbein have been wiped out and plans to use it as a research hub for horticultural industries in northwest Victoria have evaporated.

“The site has now been put on the market.

“Research formally carriedout on dried grapes, table grapes and citrus has ceased.

“The intellectual firepower which was nurtured at this research station has been all but lost to agricultural industries. To renew this resource would take decades.

The Windsor Committee recommended’ that the Commonwealth Government focus greater investment into research and development to improve irrigation efficiency.’

“Despite Recommendation 14 being adopted ‘in principle’ by the Government we are at a loss as to why the Government has abolished Land and Water Australia, and the IrrigationFutures, Cotton and Forestry Co-operative Research Centres if it believes that research is important.

“Coupled with the confirmation that the world class CSRIO Merbein Research facility will now be a footnote in the history books ‘practical research into how irrigators can produce more with less is being devastated. This just makes no sense and is a travesty.

Mr Chesson said irrigators were the greatest enablers of new technology in the country, which meant that our farmers are amongst the best in the world.

“Without meaningful and practical research into how we grow more with less, communities will be hit by the double whammy of less water and reduced productivity from the remaining water.

“We are also disappointed at the hypocrisy of the Government and the CSIRO.

“Included in the sale of the former CSIRO Merbein Research Station is 109 megalitres of water.

“Surely the Government is not seriously going to sell this water, when it is spending $3.1 billion buying water back for the environment?

“Why isn’t the CSIRO putting its money (or water) where its mouth is and returning it back to the environment?

“In fact it seems the Government has no shame. According to locals the research station was originally gifted to the Commonwealth by the Sunraysia dried fruits industry in 1927.

Mr Chesson said the local horticultural industries have made it quite clear they would like the Commonwealth to gift the site back to the community so it can continue to be used for research purposes.

Media Contact: Tom Chesson 0418 415597