Government shelves NWI

28 Oct, 2005 08:45 PM

FARM lobby groups are calling for the State Government to sign the National Water Initiative (NWI) but the government says its own strategy is adequate.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association water rights spokesman David Wren said the NWI recognised agriculture as a major stakeholder industry in planning requirements.

"The recognition allows that agricultural needs must be considered in any water planning," Mr Wren said.

"Under NWI if stakeholders' water needs change there is provision for compensation and organisation to shift the resource."

Mr Wren said the initiative had a formula for perpetual water licences, which would give farmers certainty with which to plan and borrow money against.

"The water licence can be used as collateral for the bank... it becomes an asset," he said.

"There has to be recognition of private irrigators also and NWI does this.

"There is no reason for the State Government not to sign now; they are missing out on $2 billion of Australian Water Fund money."

WAFarmers water resources spokesman Dale Park said the government had to be an NWI signatory to give WA the best chance of taking advantage of the $2b on offer.

"Some measures already being undertaken in WA would fit in well with what the NWI is all about," Mr Park said.

"If the State Government follows the recommendations of the irrigation review they will end up doing things which are part of the NWI anyway."

Mr Park said WAFarmers understood the government's concern over the NWI focus on the Murray-Darling Basin in the past.

"But the Federal Government has definitely shifted to a more national approach," Mr Park said.

Assistant Water Resources Minister John Kobelke said the government's approach was based on local requirements and would not be circumscribed by the national approach, especially one designed primarily to deal with the Murray Darling system.

"The NWI would result in additional costs and bureaucracy and it is unclear what the benefits would be to WA," Mr Kobelke said.

"The Prime Minister has said WA will get its fair share of federal water funding whether we sign the initiative or not.

"Our recent endorsement of the Irrigation Review recommendations means most of the requirements of the NWI will be implemented in a manner best suited to the needs of WA."

Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Gary Nairn said the Federal Government was pleased to see the WA Irrigation Review's recommendations were in line with NWI principles.

"When it comes to concerns specific to WA there is sufficient flexibility in the national framework for regional and local issues to be adequately addressed," Mr Nairn said.

"I am hopeful we can cooperatively move forward on this important national initiative and that the WA government signs the agreement."



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