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Listen to the Mayors' calls for water infrastructure funding.

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Media Release The Hon Greg Hunt MP Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Water 17 November 2008 Listen to the Mayors’ Calls for Water Infrastructure Funding Tomorrow’s meeting of mayors in Canberra must deliver a commitment to finally unfreeze the $6 billion for water-saving infrastructure works which were provided by the Coalition. This is money which has been budgeted and appropriated but which has been frozen. Throughout my recent six-day, 3,500 kilometre tour of the Murray-Darling Basin, local mayors were pointing to enormous water savings which could be achieved with federal support. Nearly two years ago the Coalition announced plans for a $6 billion re-plumbing of rural Australia. But even after the Rudd Government and their Labor pals finally signed up to the national water agreement, there is still no sign of this water infrastructure funding in action. Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong must use tomorrow’s meeting to announce they will finally start to turn on the tap for vital water-saving projects. Don’t bring the mayors to Canberra for a talk-fest or a feel-good exercise. Don’t try to use the event to build Labor stocks in local government. Unfreeze the water infrastructure funding. I would be extremely concerned if the Government now tried to rob money from this $6 billion fund. I know that local mayors across the Murray-Darling Basin are frustrated at the Rudd Government’s plan for a buy-out of farms as a solution to help the river system. Simply focusing on shutting down farms is bad for local towns and regional communities. We saw that with the buy-out of Toorale Station where the Bourke Shire Council warned that up to 100 jobs could be lost and $4 million in annual spending stripped from the area. Local mayors want a plan to strengthen their communities, not weaken them or eat away at their economic foundations. Tomorrow’s meeting of mayors should be about building communities - and helping them to achieve that by unfreezing the $6 billion which we set aside for water-saving infrastructure works.