Committee rolls in to talk about irrigation
COTTON Australia general manager Michael Murray was very keen to get involved when the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources rolled into Toowoomba last week.
Mr Murray was among a number of producers and representatives from agricultural organisations to stand up and have a say on the future of agricultural water use on a national level.
As part of an industry entirely reliant on irrigation water, Mr Murray said he was keen to impart the message that water efficiency was not just about using less, but about achieving better gains with what we had.
Mr Murray stressed that water buy-backs were no longer a serious option if the industry was to have a secure future.
He said rather than buying vital water from farmers for environmental uses, it would make more sense to offer farmers better incentives to work towards investment in on-farm infrastructure to improve efficiency.
“There should be an absolute commitment and funds for rural research and development; better varieties, better management and better technology,” he said.
“It would be a bonus if the government funded a modest program to subsidise, to a small degree, water use efficiency for the sake of efficiency and not environmental recovery.”
He said water use efficiency was already the biggest driver in the cotton industry and it would always strive for better, regardless of government intervention, but it simply couldn’t sustain further cuts to available water without further investment.
Committee chair Rick Wilson, Member for Western Australian seat O’Connor, said the visit to Toowoomba included farm tours and a visit to the University of Southern Queensland to check out the latest innovations in Darling Downs irrigation, including improvements to technology like centre pivot irrigation.
“We’re holding an investigation into water use efficiency and where government policy can impact and make a difference,” he said.
“We wanted to also broaden the inquiry outside of the Murray-Darling Basin and a lot of the politics surrounding it.”
He said it would examine both water use in agricultural production and sustaining the communities that rely on irrigated agriculture, while taking into account the need to ensure environmental sustainability in the long-term.
He said the Toowoomba visit was part of a tour to some of the country’s most important irrigation areas, including the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area in south-west New South Wales.
Mr Wilson said he was a farmer himself, but the tour had been an eye-opener for him due to the lack of inland settlement and irrigation in his home state of Western Australia.
“I’ve heard a lot about the Darling Downs and it certainly is an amazing part of the world,” he said.
ROUND TABLE: Talking water usage in Toowoomba as part of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water are (from left) Cotton Australia GM Michael Murray, Federal Member for Groom Dr John McVeigh, Member for O'Connor and committee chair Rick Wilson, Federal Member for Paterson Meryl Swanson and Member for Burt Matt Keogh.