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COAG: the missing piece of the water reform puzzle

15 September 2011

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has welcomed the findings of the National Water Commission’s 2011 assessment of Australian water reform, and is calling on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to respond to these recommendations – unlike the silence from the 2009 biennial assessment.

“We are very concerned that COAG does not seem to be engaged with the National Water Commission, despite being the ones to mandate for the biennial assessments in the first place,” NFF President and Chair of the NFF Water Committee, Jock Laurie, said.

“We, like all involved in the water debate, are still awaiting COAG’s response to the Commission’s 2009 assessment, let alone the one delivered yesterday.

“Our concern is that this assessment will become just another report on a shelf unless COAG now steps up to the plate and acts.

“We are particularly concerned that the lack of involvement on behalf of COAG resulted in the Commission having to make a subjective judgement on water overallocation and overuse – a judgement made without any hard data as Governments did not provide it.

“As a result, the Commission has said that overallocation is endemic, but this is based on very limited information. Clarification of Governments’ position on over allocation is urgently required.

“We are also very concerned about the potential impact on farmers under the existing risk assignment framework, which determines who should pay a share of the cost of any future changes to water availability arising from government policy.

“The Commonwealth and NSW have already legislated, with QLD set to follow – however in the absence of legislation for the remaining States and Territories, irrigators will be forced to wear the costs of future Government water policies.

“We are calling on COAG to actively engage with the Commission, provide the relevant information so the assessment is a true reflection of the current water situation, and enact the recommendations made.

“Without a commitment from COAG, the Commission’s report will simply fall by the wayside with no progress on national water reform – an outcome that is simply not acceptable for our farmers, irrigators, towns or communities,” Mr Laurie said.

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