IN THIS SECTION:
Wong’s overdue farm water account, time to ‘ante up’
2 March 2009
CLIMATE Change and Water Minister Senator Penny Wong can expect to hear first-hand from angry farmers who are still awaiting on-farm water infrastructure – under the Government’s 12-month-old ‘Water For The Future’ plan – as she travels through the northern parts of the Murray-Darling Basin this week.
“Premised on the two simultaneous prongs of water buy-back and water efficiency working in tandem to achieve water savings, only buy-back has been on the Government’s radar – ignoring its own policy strategy of assisting irrigators and communities do more with less water through irrigation infrastructure investment,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) CEO Ben Fargher said.
“The Government says it has an infrastructure package funded. Yet, disturbingly, it has not materialised on the ground and there is no guarantee any of it will be spent on on-farm infrastructure.
“It is bewildering that the Government would potentially sabotage its own policy intent. Without assisting to build the capacity for on-farm water savings, farmers simply do not have the water to give back to the environment.
“Understandably, there is growing anger and resentment in regional communities about the Government’s sole focus on water acquisitions. Despite being from ‘willing sellers’, the fact that farmers cannot realise on-farm water savings at the same time as the Government accelerates buy-back means those farms, families and communities are under increasing and unacceptable pressure to sell water they cannot afford to lose.
“Farmers have been steadfast in recognising the joint needs of community, farm production and environmental water needs. We’re happy to do our bit under the Government’s plan, but we’re being completely hamstrung.
“If the Government believes so fundamentally that there will be less water in much of Australia due to climate change, then it cannot turn its back on agriculture as farmers continues to produce the food and fibre Australians need with less water.
“The NFF has been making its case responsibly and constructively direct to Minister Wong on this issue for many months. Now the Government has long-passed overdue on its on-farm water account. The Minister will have a lot of explaining to do in regional areas over the coming days.”
For more details, see the NFF Federal Budget Submission.
Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.
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