News | 5th Jun, 2013

Govt cools on climate

5 June 2013
Chris McLennan & Cimara Pearce, Weekly Times Now
THE Victorian Government has abandoned key agricultural climate change programs.
Opposition water spokesman John Lenders criticised the move. It comes as environment groups this week claimed rural communities were being left to "fend for themselves".

''If Peter Walsh thinks that providing farmers with vital drought support packages is purely a climate-related matter he is living in a fantasy land.

"Labor's $205 million Future Farming Strategy focusing around research and development initiatives was cut back to $60 million by the Napthine Government in 2012 and attempted to dress it up as a boost.

"How can farmers and regional and rural Victorians trust a Minister who has introduced record taxes on Victorian water users, closed down regional offices and slashed hundreds of DPI 'frontline' jobs.''

Victorian Budget papers reveal a significant cut in climate change work and a continued withdrawal from the Brumby Government's $205m Future Farms Strategy.

The number of "significant stakeholder interactions on climate variability, adaptation and risk management'' was 3451 in 2011-12 with a target of 1500 in 2012-13 and 420 in 2013-14.

The Budget papers say the lower 2013-14 target "reflects the refocusing of Department of Environment and Primary Industries into higher priorities''.

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said the programs and priorities of DEPI had broadened. 

"While we are still focused on helping farmers adapt to a variable climate, we are also prioritising research and development that is focused on boosting the productivity and profitability of Victoria's food and fibre producers,'' the spokeswoman said.

Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said  it was disappointing the Government was "deprioritising'' planning for climate change with farmers and Victorian communities. 

"Since being elected, they have abolished nearly all state climate programs,'' Mr Wakeham said.

"Deciding not to talk about or develop policy on climate change unfortunately won't make it go away as we're set to learn the hard way.''

The Climate Commission recently said Victoria had entered a critical decade in the race to adapt to the stresses of climate change.

Professor Tim Flannery said Victoria was very vulnerable to large swings in climate.

Meanwhile, 13 DEPI bio scientists have been made redundant. The cuts were flagged in March but the Community and Public Sector Union said staff were told last week.
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