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Wentworth report alarms irrigators.

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THE HON DR SHARMAN STONE MP Federal Member for Murray Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Childcare & Shadow Minister for the Status of Women

Thursday 29 April 2010

Friday 4 June 2010

Wentworth report alarms irrigators

The Wentworth report released on Wednesday was full of big ideas about how much water should still be taken from the Murray Darling Basin can do nothing but further alarm irrigators.

According to the Wentworth Group, a group of scientists who came together several years ago, buying water from irrigators and then investing in infrastructure for new industries is the best way to fix the environment.

“The problem with that notion is that there are already some great industries across the irrigated areas of the Murray Darling Basin. These industries include great dairy manufacturing, fruit manufacturing, oil seed processing, olive processing and wine growing.”

“Apparently the Wentworth Group sadly thinks new industry will be better and that buying water from irrigators is the cheapest and best way to save the environment,” Sharman Stone said.

“What Federal Water Minister Penny Wong, the Rudd Labor Government and now the Wentworth scientists seem to not understand is that the best environmental managers are viable irrigation farmers.

“Farmers who manage their water efficiently not only ensure that water is available for the environment, but they also produce food and fibre.

“No farmer deliberately mishandles his or her soils, ignores feral animals and weeds and inefficiently uses water,” Sharman Stone said.

“If you kill off irrigation communities by having so many sell their water because of the excuse that they are no longer efficient, you have reduced our capacity to secure a food supply, you have taken thousands of jobs out of regional Australia, and you have left the country presumably in the hands of public servants to manage the landscape.

“The Wentworth group seems to imagine that a 30% reduction of water use across the Murray Darling Basin will only cause a very small reduction in farm viability. Already the Productivity Commission has said that there is insufficient study of the social and economic impacts of a water buy back that is not strategic and that doesn’t take into account whole system efficiencies.


“We are only weeks away from the announcement of the sustainable diversions in the Murray Darling Basin. The report claims that we need an extra 3,200 billion litres for the environment. The suggestion is that the cheapest way to find that water is to put buckets of money in front of drought stressed farmers whose options too often ran out some time ago.”

“We need to wait for the announcement of the Sustainable Diversion limits, but in the mean time we should not let the Wentworth group imagine that the existing industries like food and fibre production will be somehow less efficient than what they call new industries,” Sharman Stone said.

Media enquiries: Jo Shannon 0417 148 110.