The National Irrigators Council (NIC) has welcomed the announcement of a new Federal Government grants program to fund off-farm efficiency projects under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

NIC Chief Executive Officer Isaac Jeffrey said: “The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is one of the most complex pieces of water regulation in the world. Since its inception, a great deal of progress has been made with irrigation communities returning significant volumes of wate
to the environment.

“As members of our local communities, irrigators celebrate the wins of the Plan to date, noting they have come at significant cost to communities and industry. We welcome investment in boosting river and environmental health. Our members take their kids fishing along the river and go camping on the banks. They love seeing healthy rivers.

“The Basin Plan has always held the triple bottom line outcomes of water in the highest regard, ensuring the right balance is achieved to support healthy waterways, while being able to grow food and fibre which feeds and clothes Australia and the world.

“We have long supported the principle that efficiency measures to achieve 450GL up-water should come from off-farm. NIC does not support further removal of water from productive agriculture and dependent communities. The 450 GL efficiency program under the Plan can only be progressed where there is a neutral or positive socio-economic outcome. These programs, announced by the Federal Government, go a long way to delivering what can be achieved under the Plan, while supporting jobs and local communities.

“Irrigation puts over ninety percent of our fruit, nuts and grapes, and over seventy-six percent of our vegetables on the dinner table. It also provides over fifty percent of our dairy and sugarcane. One hundred percent of our rice and over seventy percent of our cotton are
grown using irrigation, notably with higher yields using less water, under more stringent regulations, than international competitors. Put simply, without irrigation we don’t eat and we would need to rely on more synthetic materials for clothes, and our economy would
suffer through lower international trade.

“Irrigators have delivered on their commitments under the Basin Plan and have shouldered the risks associated with water reform. They are the last to get access to water, behind towns and the environment, and the first to be cut off when supplies dry up. The industry has done its bit, and further water savings need to be found elsewhere, which is why NIC has welcomed Minister Pitt’s announcement of the off-farm efficiency program and an end to buybacks.

“With grants available from $50,000 to support projects over the next three years, this $150 million grants program is in addition to the $1.3 billion program available to State Governments to deliver water efficiency projects.”

Ends. Media Contact: Isaac Jeffrey 0407 083 890