I NOTED with disbelief the commentary this week that water saving irrigation upgrades for the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) are a money munching waste of time, the by-product of a vocal irrigation lobby eager to get a business advantage at the poor old taxpayers’ expense.
The ‘so-called’ water savings could be achieved much more easily by water buybacks from willing sellers according to some water industry insiders.
It felt, rightly or wrongly, that communities and farmers through the MDB merely constituted an ongoing burden on the good burghers of coastal Australia, forced to cough up to support a non-sustainable way of life.
It is absolute rubbish – water saving projects and infrastructure upgrades have the power to revitalise both communities and environment throughout the MDB.
Living in Horsham, I’ve seen first hand what has happened since the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline went in.
The ailing river system has finally been able to be flushed out with environmental flows, and is now in its best health for decades, while graziers on the pipeline have been able to endure the dry autumn this year relatively easily, due to reliable access to quality stock water.
And the fact one of the state’s most arid zones now has some of the most secure sources of water hasn’t escaped big business – Bayer is setting up a multi-million dollars breeding and research centre just out of Horsham and the access to water was a big plus in the decision to choose the Wimmera ahead of other prospective sites.
So, no - infrastructure upgrades that mean water gets where it is supposed to be going without evaporating or soaking into earthen channels are far from a waste of time.
There’s no doubt its going to help irrigators, but the benefits will be felt right across the MDB community.
This fallacy that seems to be doing the rounds in urban centres that rural residents are being propped up with various subsidies needs to end, and end now.
Committing to improving water infrastructure is a step towards ensuring the economic, social and environmental future of the MDB, just the same as its critical country residents receive the same quality of telecommunication services as their city counterparts.
These kind of nation-building exercises are not cheap, but we challenge whatever governments are involved to show the foresight and the resolve to take the necessary steps to truly take rural Australia into the 21st century.