Wa­ter projects win praise

Tasmanian Country - - OPINION -

THE head of Tas­ma­nia’s peak farm­ing body says last week’s na­tional drought sum­mit shows Tas­ma­nia is on the right track when it comes to ir­ri­ga­tion in­vest­ment.

Tas­ma­nian Farm­ers and Gra­ziers As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Wayne John­ston was one of the rep­re­sen­ta­tives at last week’s sum­mit.

Mr John­ston said the state’s ap­proach to drought-proof­ing and ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture was some­thing many ar­eas of the main­land could learn from.

“A lot of the del­e­gates were ac­tu­ally sur­prised at how much money we’ve spent here on ir­ri­ga­tion over the last 10 years or so,” Mr John­ston said.

“We do have some very dry ar­eas on the East Coast at the mo­ment . . . but the work that has gone on over the last 10 years has gone a long way to drought proof­ing the state.

“The only way to pre­vent drought is to have wa­ter and that means build­ing dams or other in­fra­struc­ture.

“I think some of the other state gov­ern­ments could prob­a­bly do more when it comes to in­vest­ing in ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture like that.”

The Fed­eral Govern­ment has now com­mit­ted $3.9 bil­lion to a Drought Fu­ture Fund, which will in­crease to $5 bil­lion by 2028.

How­ever, the Govern­ment has been crit­i­cised this week for scant de­tail about where the fund­ing is to come from.

Some crit­ics have dis­missed the drought sum­mit as noth­ing more than a talk fest.

“Was it a talk fest, in some ways yes, but I’m hope­ful there will be some pos­i­tive changes that come out of it,” Mr John­ston said.

The lat­est anal­y­sis by the Aus­tralian Bureau of Agri­cul­ture, Re­source Eco­nomics and Sciences pre­sented at the drought sum­mit shows this year’s eastern Aus­tralian ce­real crop in the wheat and sheep zone is likely to be down by 53 per cent com­pared with the 20- year av­er­age.

In NSW the fore­cast is even worse, with pre­dic­tions of a 65 per cent drop on the 20-year av­er­age.

Over­all na­tional win­ter crop pro­duc­tion is ex­pected to be down by 23 per cent.

The ABARES re­port says de­mand for grain and fod­der has also put pres­sure on sup­plies which are now dwin­dling down to lev­els last seen dur­ing the 2006-2007 drought.

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