Media Releases | 7th Nov, 2002

Bracks’ $50m Irrigator Subsidy is No `Healthy Rivers’ Policy

Friday, 8 November 2002

Environment groups today urged more substance on river health as today’s ALP ‘Healthy Rivers, Healthy Farms’ policy failed to deliver on the environment.

ACF Land & Water Co-ordinator Tim Fisher said, “This is very disappointing. One has to ask why the term ‘Healthy Rivers’ was even used the way this policy stands right now.”

“This is a very disappointing follow-up to Steve Bracks’ Snowy initiative, and we’ll be pushing hard to get a better deal for our rivers from here.”

“On the face of it, 97 per cent of funds committed are subsidies for irrigators, with no indication that any water savings will be returned to the environment,” Mr Fisher said.

The expenditure commitments are as follows:

  • Water efficiency & expansion grants to irrigators $10.million over 4 years
  • Irrigation system efficiencies – up to 110 Gigalitres for expanded irrigation $40 million
  • River health initiatives – Goulburn and Broken Rivers $1.5 million over 3 years

“Time and time again scientists have confirmed that the rivers of the Murray Darling are severely over-allocated and declining in health,” Mr Fisher said.
This week the Wentworth Group’s ‘Blueprint for a Living Continent*’ stated:

“In over-allocated systems, supply and distribution savings that are paid for by taxpayers should be returned to the environment, not pocketed by private interests.” (*page 8)

Environment Victoria Healthy Rivers Director Dr Paul Sinclair said, “Taxpayers paying for new and expanded irrigation developments is a policy that harks back to the 1950s. One has to ask, what are the environmental and public interest benefits that arise from this sort of porkbarrelling?”

“The Goulburn, Murray and other rivers are seriously stressed for lack of water, so surely it’s time this Government recognised that it’s our rivers that are most in need of more water,” Dr Sinclair said.
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