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The Federal Government’s latest budget has been met with disappointment by some in the industry after it failed to provide funding commitments for key irrigation initiatives. 

Tasmanian Irrigation CEO, Andrew Kneebone, said that farmers had been hopeful of Federal Government support in the wake of a funding commitment from the State Government for the Greater South East Irrigation Scheme (GSEIS) during the recent Tasmanian election.

“There’s a critical need in the south east to integrate the three existing irrigation schemes, meet the demand for new water and address the reliability and cost issues for farmers,” Mr Kneebone said. 

“The scheme we are proposing also has great potential to add value to the state economy. The value of this development is undeniable.

“The Greater South East Irrigation Scheme has the capacity to deliver 37,200ML of high surety water that would be the catalyst for conversion to higher value activity in what’s traditionally been one of the driest areas of the state. The scheme would also meet new demand in the region, trigger approximately $120 million of on-farm investment and create a $98.7 million boost in the state’s farmgate value.”

Mr Kneebone said that many farmers in the region now face an imminent rise in the cost of their water and ongoing uncertainty of supply.

“Irrigators on the existing Stages Two and Three are supplied with fully treated potable water from TasWater. This reliance on treated water from TasWater has been a long-held concern for landowners due to the rising cost of the water, competing pressures for supply and uncertainty of supply during dry seasons. 

“This is not a situation that anyone wants to see continue indefinitely.”

Mr Kneebone said that Tasmanian Irrigation would now work with the Tasmanian and Federal Governments, TasWater and the south east irrigator community to consider workable options and solutions.

The New South Wales Irrigators’ Council’s CEO, Claire Miller, said that the latest budget has left Murray-Darling Basin in the dark for the third year in a row.

“The government cannot hide behind commercial confidence or distorting the market as that ship has well and truly sailed,” Ms Miller said.

“The market became distorted the moment Minister Plibersek announced her intention to buy back water in the government’s first Budget in 2022.

“The government has already paid 20 per cent and more above the market to buy back a relatively small amount under its Bridging the Gap tender – and that’s before it starts trying to pull another 450GL out of the shrinking bucket to grow food and fibre.

“To add insult to injury for Basin communities, the government has also kept secret its budget for Basin community adjustment, deeming it ‘nfp’, not for publication.”

The New South Wales Irrigators’ Council welcomed the allocation of funds for water infrastructure projects aimed at enhancing drinking water quality and security in regional Australia.

“This investment is long overdue.” 

Image: Alexandre.ROSA/shutterstock.com

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