Deniliquin Pastoral Times
Senator wants ‘practical’ spending from govt
Money being thrown at an Off-farm Efficiency Program to generate water savings for the environment would be better spent on ‘‘practical things that will achieve better environmental outcomes, such as complementary measures’’, according to Deniliquin-based Senator Perin Davey.
The Federal Government has made $1.33 billion available to fund projects that generate water savings offfarm through the State Led Off-farm stream.
These savings will count towards the 450 gigalitres of water the Murray-Darling Basin Plan requires to deliver enhanced environmental outcomes.
Senator Davey said she and her fellow Nationals senators tried to move amendments because ‘‘it is my preference that we don’t pursue the 450’’.
‘‘As it stands, we are tied by existing legislation, but this time the program has been designed consistent with the very strong social and economic test that this region fought so hard for, and was accepted by the Basin Ministerial Council nearly two years ago.
‘‘I am pleased we are focused on on-farm projects, but I won’t be holding my breath for any significant water recovery.
‘‘I know the low hanging fruit has gone. As Murray Irrigation’s chair Phil Snowden said (on ABC radio on Wednesday), this region has no more water to give and I applaud Murray Irrigation for coming out early saying they would not be giving up any more water.
‘‘The Murray Irrigation area has so much potential for environmental projects that should be looked at totally separate from water recovery targets.
‘‘The area should be the pilot region for a new approach to environmental water management, working with landholders and Murray Irrigation, and that is what I am advocating for.’’
Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt said Murray–Darling Basin states are being invited to nominate infrastructure projects through the Off-farm Efficiency Program.
‘‘I acknowledge that generating 450 gigalitres of water savings by 2024 is a tall order, but my commitment is to push as hard as we can to make our irrigation networks as efficient as possible,’’ Mr Pitt said.
‘‘Working with the states on this sort of infrastructure agenda will generate jobs, improve delivery of water to farms, and increases water available for growing crops — all while contributing towards the target.
‘‘Saving water this way is a win for farmers and for the environment.’’
The Off-Farm Efficiency Program includes $1.33 billion for state-led off-farm projects, and $60 million is also available for the state led on-farm stream.
‘‘We need to talk to those who own and operate offfarm irrigation infrastructure — it’s important that we check that the thinking done in Canberra office blocks will work on the ground,’’ Mr Pitt said.
Consultation on the direct grant program is open for 10 business days, closing on Friday, August 20. Visit haveyoursay.awe.gov.au/offfarm-efficiency-grantsprogram for more information or to have your say.