NIC CEO, Steve Whan, says “Irrigators make absolutely no apology for wanting to ensure country towns and our farmers have a future. 

“That’s why when Government decides it is going to acquire water for the environment, we will always actively work to try to ensure that water is acquired through water saving rather than buyback.

“Any look at history will tell you irrigators did not (and do not) want Government taking irrigation water out of production.  Despite that, our industry has cooperated in an attempt to play a positive role in achieving healthy rivers – but at the same time healthy communities and a continued capacity to grow food and fibre.

“Extensive community by community research proves that buyback costs jobs, population and production.  Negative impacts that can be reduced, or even reversed, if extra funds are set aside to improve productivity at the same time. 

“That is exactly why the then Labor Government put in place the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program (PIIOP) and the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program (OFIEP).  These programs were administered by the Federal Department of Agriculture who allocated a total of $1.4 billion acquiring (a nominal) 345 billion litres of water.

“Overall the feedback and the economic studies indicate they these programs have done their job.  Yes, the water cost more per megalitre than (the then) market price.  But that is exactly what the Government said it would do, because the benefit was for the community and production.

“We expect Government to ensure that funds are spent appropriately, we support full transparency of expenditure and rigorous audit.

NIC would also point out:

  • Water has been returned to the environment, as contracted, and it has been audited;
  • Water can be purchased by any farmer, but there is overall 20% less available for irrigation;
  • The Basin Plan does take into account underutilised licences;
  • Annual accounting of the Sustainable Diversion Limit should provide the overall water accounts we all want to see.

“The Basin Plan is the world’s most ambitious environmental plan for a river system. It will be difficult, but it is made even harder if each side sees it as a winner takes all struggle, rather than a plan that, inevitably, involves compromise.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883 

Monday 8 July 2019