Discount water available from December

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Discounted irrigation water for producers will be made available from next month, Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley has clarified.

After the drought package component was announced on Thursday, some reports suggested the water will not be available until April.

Ms Ley, who is also Environment Minister, assured producers it would be available much earlier.

‘‘The intention is water will be made available in December in order that it grow summer pasture in the New South Wales and Victorian Murray,’’ she said.

‘‘It may also be available for winter planting and we expect it will all be used by April 30, 2020 (with a review to follow).

‘‘25 megalitres is the minimum allocation, however it is certainly not the maximum that may be allocated per farmer.

‘‘The price per megalitre has yet to be settled, but it will be a lot closer to $100 per megalitre than the current actual price of temporary water.’’

At the time of going to print yesterday, data on Murray Irrigation Limited’s website suggested water was selling for as high as $1000 a megalitre.  The provided ‘sell low’ price was $650, and the buy offer was $560.

‘‘This measure, costing the Commonwealth close to $90m is about two things - a realistic economic stimulus for our region and fodder to help keep breeding stock going,’’ Ms Ley said.

‘‘Cash payments cannot keep precious herds alive nor deliver fodder to your door when it is scarce. This is not a borrow. The water does not have to be paid back.

‘‘The arrangement we have struck with South Australia means that we do not have to pass legislation to amend the Basin Plan. As you all know this would take too long and might not be successful.

‘‘I continue to look for any and all opportunities to secure water for our region.

‘‘While allocations and water policy remain a state government matter, I am proud that our federal government has included actions which benefit Southern Basin irrigation communities as a key support measure in this week’s drought funding update.’’

The drought package will see up to 100 gigalitres of water secured for district farmers to grow fodder, silage and pasture at a discounted rate.

The South Australian Government will turn on its desalination plant to service Adelaide, leaving the 100 gigalitres to be used to grow fodder upstream.