National Irrigators’ Council (NIC) has today welcomed the Australian Government’s
announcement on pursuing off-farm water savings to deliver environmental water in the
Murray-Darling Basin.

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, the Hon. Keith Pitt MP, has announced the
Government will scrap the Water Efficiency Program (WEP) and replace it with a system which
does not impact farmers’ water entitlements.

NIC Chief Executive Officer Isaac Jeffrey said: “The National Irrigators’ Council welcomes
Minister Pitt’s announcement that the Government is moving to deliver water savings through
off-farm projects.

“NIC has over a long period called on basin governments to deliver off-farm infrastructure
projects for water savings. We have also advocated for a suite of complementary measures to
boost the health of our river systems while not placing further burden on productive users.

“We are committed to delivering the Basin Plan and the promised triple bottom line outcomes
for local economies, the environment and communities, including First Nations. Irrigated
agriculture producers in the Basin are already playing a vital role in helping achieve these
outcomes, not only through giving up water, but in partnering with governments to help deliver
environmental water.

“Basin stakeholders have stressed to me over recent months their concern regarding the
possibility of not achieving the 450 GL target under the current arrangements, so today’s
pragmatic announcement is welcome news for food and fibre producers. A move away from
on-farm savings provides the sector with certainty, so they can plan for the years ahead
without the additional threat of water being removed from production.

“NIC has long stated that you cannot just add water to fix the system; we have instead
advocated for water infrastructure investment and the use of complementary measures (as
did the Productivity Commission and Sefton review) focused on improving fish breeding habitat
and addressing issues like cold water pollution, carp and riparian management. This is needed
to achieve long-term benefits. $1.5 billion is a serious commitment to delivering the Basin Plan
and improving the system which benefits all water users.

“Yesterday, we heard Australia’s agriculture sector had generated over $66 billion with the flow
on impacts to local economies and associated businesses being many times more. It is a vital
industry for our nation and today’s announcement goes some way towards acknowledging
that fact.

“Agriculture is the lifeblood of regional communities and our national economy. It produces
high-quality food and fibre which is feeding and clothing Australians and our neighbours and
friends around the world – and it does so within a system of very high standards and
regulations. Nowhere does it better.”

Media Contact: Isaac Jeffrey 0407 083 890