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Infrastructure, not purchase, key to water savings

23 February 2012

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has called for a greater focus on investment to improve water savings in the Murray-Darling Basin, after the Government today announced a water purchase program for the southern end of the system.

NFF President Jock Laurie says that water purchases should be the option of last resort from the Government, not the first step in improving water efficiency.

“The Government basically has two options: they can reduce water through improved infrastructure and water efficiency measures for farms and communities – or they can buy the water back out of our agricultural production systems,” Mr Laurie said.

“With today’s announcement, they have chosen the latter – which, if they continue down this path for the rest of the Basin, will result in a reduction in food and fibre production of around $1.6 billion, at the exact time that Australia’s farm output needs to grow in order to meet the growing needs of the population.

“We have said all along that Minister Burke and the Government must find a way to get more water to the environment without compromising our ability to get food on Australian plates or fibre into our clothing. And, they must do so without negatively affecting the jobs and communities that we support in regional Australia.

“There is only one sensible solution. The Government must invest now in infrastructure and water efficiency measures and commit funds to increase research, development and extension to give farmers the knowledge and tools they need to grow more food and fibre with less water.

“The Government could take the heat out of the debate re the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan now by shifting their focus to infrastructure and water efficiency measures.

“Reaching the Government’s targets through these measures is not only achievable, but also the only sensible approach to delivering the promised balanced outcome of a healthy environment, vibrant communities and prosperous regional economies.

“We are calling on Minister Burke to deliver these solutions, and this balance,” Mr Laurie said.

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