Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Investment in irrigation infrastructure to deliver water reform

Media release
8 May 2012

The Gillard Government will invest $350 million to support water reform in the Murray Darling Basin, continuing its commitment to irrigation infrastructure in this year's Budget.

"The Gillard Government has made clear that we are committed to delivering a plan for the Murray Darling Basin that restores our rivers to health, ensures strong regional communities and sustainable food production," Mr Burke said.

"That's why we are committing additional funds to support modernisation of irrigation infrastructure, helping irrigators improve water efficiency on farm.

"Murray Darling Basin reform has been put in the too hard basket for too long, caught in a deadlock between the states.

"We have a once in a generation opportunity now to get a national basin plan," Mr Burke said.

Some funds previously reserved for buybacks have been pushed back for future years because of the government's decision not to engage in general rounds of tenders prior to the conclusion of 2012.

An additional $150 million is being provided to the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program from 2012-13 to support individual farm infrastructure improvement projects.

"I will be announcing the call for applications for round three of this program soon," Mr Burke said.

Water savings from these projects will contribute to bridging the gap in the final Basin Plan.

"This program builds on the good work of farmers in improving water efficiency at an on-farm level. Irrigators have informed my department that they have spent funds for supplies and services from two previous rounds of this program almost entirely to the benefit of regional businesses.

"I expect this to be the case also with the additional funding. Other benefits will be improved flexibility of crop rotation from new irrigation systems, reduced labour times and costs, reduced nutrient run-off and application rates, increased crop yields, the ability to spend financial savings on other on-farm upgrades, and more sustainable farms."

The Budget will also provide $200 million for the Strategic Sub-System Reconfiguration Program, a new four year initiative which will achieve water savings through reconfiguring inefficient off-farm water delivery infrastructure where this is coupled with the purchase of water entitlements.

"Proposals will be developed at a local community level involving infrastructure operators and their irrigation customers," Mr Burke said.

"The program is being developed in consultation with key irrigation water providers and will be flexible to encourage projects which work for the particular circumstances of each irrigation district."