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Feds must wrest Water Plan from delinquent states... now

30 April 2009

IN THE wake of today’s failure by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to progress the Federal Government’s ‘Water for the Future’ plan, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling on the Federal Government to now take control of the national water reform agenda.

“The states have proven, yet again, that they are incapable of getting the job done,” NFF Water Taskforce Chair Laurie Arthur said. “We must not forget that the Federal Government provided hundreds of millions of dollars to the states as an inducement for them to sign up to the Water Plan.

“Instead, it’s time the Federal Government used that money to invest directly in achieving water efficiencies through delivery system and on-farm upgrades.

“Farmers, indeed all Australians, now need the Federal Government to seize the initiative, in the lead up to its May Budget, and work directly with farmers, irrigators and regional communities to invest in vital infrastructure works that matter on the ground.

“No less will keep its flagging Water Plan alive.

“The farm sector is ‘shovel ready’ for the on-farm infrastructure necessary to achieve water savings. We have put detailed proposals to the Federal Government and we now call on it to assume responsibility for direct delivery, without the states.

“Such a move would be a legitimate investment in water security, provide more water for environmental flows, and create tangible economic benefits in terms of jobs and economic growth in the short-term, as well as long-term nation-building infrastructure.

“Water buy-back alone is not a solution. In fact, without regional and on-farm upgrades complementing buy-back, it only exacerbates the difficulties faced by farmers, entire regional communities and the environmental health of our rivers.

“Leadership is now demanded and cannot be stalled any longer.

“Farmers are ready to partner with the Government to produce more food and fibre with less water and, in doing so, return more water to the environment. But the Government needs to invest directly with farmers and regional Australia if we are to transform the way water is used in this country.

“It’s time for the Federal Government to get it done.”

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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