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Water trigger bill puts agriculture at risk, warns NFF

12 March 2013

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has warned of a potential side effect of the legislation set to be introduced today by the Federal Environment Minister, aimed at ensuring our valuable natural water resources remain protected from mining and coal seam gas developments.

“While we certainly agree with the intent of the bill, which is to see greater scrutiny and scientific rigour around coal seam gas and mining developments where they may impact on our water resources, we have significant concerns about the potential for this bill to be extended to agriculture in the future,” NFF President Jock Laurie said.

“There is a huge risk in opening the door to a so-called ‘water trigger’ under the national environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, as while it may be introduced with the aim of safeguarding water from the mining and coal seam gas industries, it could very easily be extended to other industries, including agriculture.

“Water is a critical factor for our farmers, and our strong concern is that this bill could actually have perverse negative outcomes for our agricultural sector. What may, on first glance, look like a win for farmers in the short-term could actually have long-term unintended consequences for our current, and future, farmers.

“While we can – and do – call on this Government to ensure that agriculture is not included under this bill; this will not prevent a future Parliament from potentially widening its application. We call on the architects of the bill to clearly explain how agriculture has been, and will continue to be, excluded.

“We have consistently called for rigorous, scientific-decision making, which is why we support the role of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee.

“The NFF members considered a similar bill last year and, collectively, strongly opposed the introduction of any water trigger provisions into the EPBC Act because of this magnitude of this risk,” Mr Laurie said.

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