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Registrations of interest invited for Murray-Darling Basin small block irrigators Exit Grant Package.



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PW 230/08 2 November 2008

REGISTRATIONS OF INTEREST INVITED FOR MURRAY-DARLING BASIN SMALL BLOCK IRRIGATORS EXIT GRANT PACKAGE

Small block irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin are invited to register their interest in a new program to help farmers wanting to leave the irrigation industry to stay on their farms, while also returning water to the environment.

The Small Block Irrigators Exit Grant Package was recently announced by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong.

Eligibility for the package is conditional on an irrigator selling their water entitlement to the Federal Government so that water can be returned to the Murray-Darling Basin’s stressed rivers and wetlands.

“The package will help these small block irrigators remain in their communities while getting out of the business of irrigation, at the same time as providing greater environmental flows to the Murray-Darling system,” Senator Wong said.

“The assistance will bring relief to small-scale irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin affected by drought and climate change who wish to cease irrigated farming but are unable to sell their farms.

“It will give them the opportunity to exit the irrigation sector but remain in their family home and continue to be part of their local community.”

The Small Block Irrigators Exit Grant Package offers up to $150,000 as a special exit payment to eligible irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin on farms of 15 hectares or less, plus up to $20,000 for other transitional assistance.

Small-scale irrigators in areas including the Riverland and Sunraysia regions of the Murray have expressed particular interest in the program.

The Rudd Government has asked that Basin State Governments sign off on water reforms that will enable delivery of the package to irrigators and improve the functioning of the water market. These include: • The removal of a number of state-specific barriers to trade

• The rezoning of land so that irrigators can take advantage of the grants • Agreement to develop a national water market system by 2010 (including a water register, faster and better transactions, and better market information).

As soon as a Basin State has agreed to implementing the required reforms, irrigators will be able to lodge formal applications for the exit grant with Centrelink.

Irrigators are meanwhile invited to register their interest for the program with Centrelink on 1800 050 015 (during business hours). Centrelink will record the contact details of interested irrigators, and alert them directly when the program opens in their State.

The water purchase process will occur separately, with water sale proposals being submitted to the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

Other relevant details of the package include: • The package will be available until the end of the 2008/09 financial year; • The package is available to irrigators with an entitlement to extract water from a watercourse (as opposed to groundwater); • Eligible irrigators will be required to sell all their entitlements to extract water from a

watercourse (a minimum of 10 megalitres) to the Australian Government to access the package; • The full $150,000 is available to irrigators with net assets of $350,000 or less after the sale of their water entitlement and reduces to zero when net assets reach $575,000; • The value of the land and the principal house located on the farm will be exempt from the

assets test; • Farmers accessing the grants must agree not to become an owner or principal operator of an irrigation business for at least five years, and to remove permanent plantings and water

infrastructure from their block.

Further information on the eligibility criteria for the grants is available at

www.environment.gov.au/water