Lobby groups attack water inquiry

30 Oct, 2003 07:00 PM
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PREMIER Geoff Gallop has announced a review into the sustainability of WA's irrigated agriculture a month after the Auditor General criticised the State Government over its water resource management practices.

State farm lobby groups were quick to react.

WAFarmers policy director Andy McMillan said the government should get its own house in order before telling farmers how to run their businesses.

He said the Premier appeared to have a do as I say, not as I do attitude to farmers with no indication of terms of reference, funding streams or consultation process.

Pastoralists and Graziers president Barry Court said the government had still not met its responsibilities under the 1994 COAG water agreement to guarantee water access rights to farmers and irrigators.

"What irrigators and commercial water users need more than this study is a firm commitment by State Government to clarify their rights of access to water," he said.

Dr Gallop said the review was one of the most important recommendations to come out of last year's water symposium and would also identify possible future locations for sustainable irrigated agriculture in WA.

He said it would identify opportunities for improving efficiencies in irrigated agriculture, costs associated with implementing efficiency gains, pricing mechanisms and possible trade-offs.

Dr Gallop said demand for irrigation water was expected to double in the next 20 years while there had been a 20pc reduction in winter rainfall in the past 30 years. That trend was predicted to continue for another 70 years.

"If WA is to meet the challenges of increased demand and reduced rainfall we simply must ensure the efficient use of water by our irrigated agriculture sector," he said.

"This sector makes a significant contribution to the State's economy and this review will ensure that it continued to do so for many years to come."

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