Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Environment Minister endorses Midlands Water Scheme

Media release
17 April 2011

Environment Minister Tony Burke today endorsed a major new irrigation project in Tasmania.

In Tasmania, Mr Burke said he had endorsed the Midlands Water Scheme after a strategic assessment under national environmental law, which included extensive public consultation.

The Midlands Water Scheme will involve building new pipelines, infrastructure and using dams so that water can be delivered to up to 500 farms from Perth to Kempton, providing up to 47, 500 megalitres of water each year.

A part of the scheme involves construction of a new off-river 6000 megalitre dam located at Miford Dam on cleared farmlands, to be connected to the Lower South Esk River by new pipeline.

"This decision will provide irrigators in the Midlands with certainty to plan for the future with confidence, whilst ensuring fragile ecosystems in the region are protected," Mr Burke said.

"The scheme is about boosting environmentally sustainable irrigation in Tasmania's Midlands and supporting farmers who want to grow crops to protect important environmental areas on their properties.

"It means that while farmers in the Midlands region who need access to water will still need to have an accredited farm plan, they will have advance environmental approval for irrigation activities that follow the scheme's criteria.

"Importantly, the scheme will allow for no clearance or conversion of critically listed grasslands in the Midlands.

"This scheme is about governments working together to protect our biodiversity whilst reducing red tape for farm businesses so they can get on with their businesses and plan for the future."

The Gillard Government has committed $140 million under its Water for the Future initiative to support efficient irrigation in Tasmania, subject to due diligence requirements.

"The scheme sets out clear goal posts for the future, including how nationally and state protected habitat and species will be safeguarded, how salinity will be managed, where infrastructure can be built, and where and how water will be sourced," Mr Burke said.

"We know that farmers do important work to protect precious areas on their properties. This scheme will clearly advise farmers on the best way to protect precious habitat should they want to introduce irrigation on their property.

"By helping landholders diversify that will maintain the Midlands' natural values, we are supporting the whole region's economy, both on the farm and in communities."

The next step in the Midlands Water Scheme is consideration of a range of activities that will take place under the endorsed scheme. Where approved, such activities will need no further federal environmental assessment, provided they are done in accordance with the scheme.