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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6826

Mr HUTCHINSON (Lyons) (13:08): Maybe the member for Wills could move to Tasmania? It is a wonderful climate down there; a couple of degrees warmer has great benefits for the many aspects of life in Tasmania.

Tunbridge husband-and-wife farming couple, Richard and Emily Gardner, are among the leaders of a revolution underway in Tasmania that will cement my state's reputation as the most reliable source of food and fibre on a continent often challenged by harsh climatic conditions over many years. Early in August will be the opening and commissioning of the largest irrigation scheme in the state of Tasmania, the Midlands irrigation scheme, which will deliver 38,500 megalitres to over 55,500 hectares in the Midlands of Tasmania. To put that in perspective, that is an area greater than the Ord River scheme. It is a significant project by any scale.

Tasmania only has two per cent of the nation's land mass but, because of its unique maritime climate at the edge of the Southern Ocean, it has 30 per cent of Australia's total rainfall run-off. That is twice as much as the Murray-Darling Basin. Unfortunately, though, much of it falls in the wrong area with respect to agriculture, but this has been capitalised on in central and western parts of the state through hydro-electricity generation. People ask me why, then, in my home state—and particularly in my largely rural electorate of Lyons—I am working so hard on building irrigation schemes for a place where there is so much rain. The key for Tasmanian farmers is to capture the water to harness the rainfall run-off for later use, before it runs out to sea. Creating further water storages and irrigation for primary production unlocks the massive potential of Tasmania's food production and helps the transformation of traditional produce pursuits such as grazing into higher value outcomes.

Indeed, plans are well advanced to build five additional irrigation schemes across the state, which will have a combined construction and implementation cost of nearly half a billion dollars. These are in the Scottsdale region of the north-east in the electorate of Bass; the Swan River on the east coast in my electorate of Lyons; the Southern Highlands scheme, also in Lyons; the North Esk scheme in Lyons; and the Circular Head scheme up on the north-west coast in the electorate of Braddon. Two of these will be shovel-ready by the end of this year, with the three others not far behind. The five proposed new schemes will need funding totalling approximately $140 million from state and federal governments in addition to the $52 million that will be contributed through irrigators in investments in water entitlements, and an additional private investment on-farm in excess of $200 million for irrigation infrastructure, be it dams or delivery systems. In my electorate of Lyons the Central Highlands is one of the oldest and most sparsely populated areas in the state. Water from the Southern Highlands Irrigation Scheme will be used primarily for cropping, including for poppies—opiate production; cereals and pasture seeds; and irrigated grazing systems to produce prime lambs.

The other potential for huge economic growth is that traditional grazing properties can undergo dairy conversions to expand what is a really booming industry within the state of Tasmania. Recently we have also seen horticultural interests in the form of cherry orchards established in that area. A $28.5 million scheme has also been designed to deliver summer water to a region held back by a lack of reliable water—yes, it does happen in Tasmania. Due to drought, the Central Highlands was declared an exceptional circumstances zone from 2000 to 2002, and again from 2006 to 2008. In addition, two water supply emergency zones have been declared for the Southern Highlands by the state government since 2007.

This Southern Highlands project has an additional benefit of improving the reliability of drinking water supply in the town of Bothwell, which ran out of water during last year's most recent drought. Flow-on economic benefits for the area will include more than 30 full-time jobs in the area as well as 13 indirect jobs. The proposed Swan River scheme on Tasmania's east coast will support viticulture, grazing, irrigated cropping and walnut enterprises. These indeed are valuable investments in my home state, and I will be working very hard with the relevant ministers to seek the federal government's contribution.

Question agreed to.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 13 : 13