News | 8th Oct, 2010

Citrus industry calls for calm over irrigation water cuts

Friday, 8 October 2010
Mildura Independent

A citrus grower's organisation has appealed for calm in the wake of proposed water consumption cuts from the Murray-Darling river system.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority on Friday released a draft plan which includes recommendations that water consumption from the system be scaled back by up to 4000 gigalitres.

While the forecast changes are expected to benefit wildlife and wetlands, Australia could lose $805 million a year in agricultural production and 800 jobs.

Riverina Citrus, an organisation that represents more than 500 farmers who grow a third of all Australian oranges, says they are confident they have a strong case for maintaining the water resource for their industry.

"I urge our growers to remain calm through this period of consultation," Riverina Citrus chairman Frank Battistel said in a statement.

"We are studying the draft plan's recommendations, but it seems there are still many questions to be answered and it is quite a few years before this plan is due to be finalised."

Mr Battistel said it was heartening the federal government had committed to buying back irrigation water only from willing sellers.

"It is now important that all levels of government work to ensure that the water market is freed up to assist this adjustment process, efficiency programs and infrastructure funding is wisely spent and there is support for community adjustment," he said.

"I am confident that we have a strong case for maintaining the water resource for our industry." The mooted goal of making the Murray River flow out to sea every year, including during drought years, by slashing irrigation in the Murray-Darling basin by up to 37 per cent, is an interference with nature, to kill off people, Citizens Electoral Council leader Craig Isherwood declared today.

“The Greenies are keen to mess with nature to annihilate people; I say let’s improve nature to benefit people,” he said.

Mr Isherwood explained, “It is not ‘natural’ for the Murray to flow out to sea every year. Long before European settlement and the fairly recent development of the brilliant irrigation infrastructure that turned the basin into Australia’s food bowl, the Murray and Darling rivers often dried out.

Environment Victoria has welcomed the release of the guide to the Murray Darling Basin Plan, saying it offers hope for Victoria’s northern rivers and red gum national parks.

“For years, Victorians have watched with dismay as our river systems have suffered from the combined effects of drought and over-extraction of water,” said Environment Victoria’s Healthy Rivers Campaigner Juliet Le Feuvre.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to restore balance to the way our northern rivers are managed so that our children can inherit healthier river systems and a more sustainable agricultural industry,”

The Goulburn Valley Environment Group (GVEG) has today welcomed the interim report from the Murray Darling Basin Authority calling for cuts to irrigation limits. It has commended the MDBA on its report and is calling upon both sides of Federal politics to back its findings.

“This process was initiated by the Howard government and strengthened by the Gillard/ Rudd government. For the sake of regional communities this bi-partisan approach must continue” GVEG President and local irrigator Helen Reynolds said “We share a concern that the balance needs to be addressed for the Goulburn and Murray Rivers between irrigation and the environment.

The problem is that already lost 90 per cent of our flood plain wetlands. That is certainly not balanced.”