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Governments urged to take a cold shower over water talks

10 July 2007

“FEDERAL and State Government negotiations on the National Plan for Water Security (NPWS) are now at a critical stage,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie declared today.

“All our governments must remain fully committed to negotiating in good faith – there can be no wavering, political grandstanding or petty parochial bickering now. It’s too important.

“The discussions are precariously perched as the deadline for States to sign on to the national plan looms and we sense the whole project including the commitment of $10 billion could unnecessarily fall over unless all parties are made accountable should failure be the outcome.

“Most states have shown a willingness to engage constructively and to sensibly work through the issues relevant to their respective patches… the last thing we need now is for any single party to bloody-mindedly throw a spanner in the works.

“Farmers and irrigators are acutely aware that with the Prime Minister’s July deadline for rainfall and inflows into the Murray-Darling Basin lapsing, and zero water allocation now in place for the foreseeable future, water reform is at the very heart of community concerns – not to mention the livelihoods of 50,000 farmers who rely on the Murray-Darling Basin.

“The NFF has provided ‘conditional support’ for the NPWS – pending the details being worked through with farmers and other water users, however, we are now increasingly concerned about politics getting in the way of a positive, workable outcome.

“The national interest must be paramount. We need the better management, improved natural resource security and the certainty over water property rights for all users that only a national plan can deliver.

“We expect all governments – federal and state – to engage positively to find a way forward on the national plan. Naturally, individual states rightly have local concerns and these must be addressed and clarified, however, we need all jurisdictions to negotiate in good faith and in the national interest.

“We call on them to ensure they do so.”

[ENDS]

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

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