Com­mit­tee rolls in to talk about ir­ri­ga­tion

Central and North Burnett Times - - RURAL WEEKLY - . ME­GAN MAS­TERS me­gan.mas­ters@thechron­i­cle.com.au

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.

PHOTO: ME­GAN MAS­TERS

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.

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