The Productivity Commission’s final report on progress of water reform (not to be confused with their review of the Murray Darling Basin Plan) has provided strong endorsement of some key policy priorities put forward by irrigators, along with some challenges for the sector, particularly outside the Murray Darling Basin.

The report, dated December 2017, but released this week, says broadly, that water reform has been successful. One of its key points is strong endorsement of the operation of the water market particularly in the Murray Darling.

National Irrigators Council CEO, Steve Whan, said “it is pleasing to see the Productivity Commission noting the importance of irrigated agriculture to Australia, pointing out that irrigated agriculture produces 27% of Australia’s agricultural product by value, using just 0.6% of agricultural land.

“The Irrigated agriculture sector would see this report as being generally positive, with a ‘stay the course’ theme.

“It does include some challenges for the sector and State Governments in Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. WA and the NT are being told they need to implement fundamental reforms to catch up on water ownership and the market.

“In Queensland and Tasmania, the Commission is effectively suggesting charges are not high enough. Irrigators would obviously have concerns about that.

“On the positive side, NIC welcomes the ringing endorsement of some core NIC policy points. That includes strong recognition that the health of a river is about more than just flow. The report emphasises the need for complementary measures such as tackling pest species, cold water pollution and conditions for native fish.

“It also highlights the need to measure outcomes, not just flows, and build a community up approach to managing environmental water. We also welcome recommendations recognising indigenous connection to the rivers.

“The report makes strong recommendations about the financing of new or expanded irrigation schemes, saying they should not be funded on (effectively) a non-commercial basis. NIC would differ in part on that, we would suggest that in determining what element of public involvement there is in an investment, the regional development potential of projects must be taken into account as a ‘public good’.

“NIC looks forward to working with Government as they determine how to respond to the report.”

Media Contact: Steve Whan 0429 780 883
Monday 4 June 2018