Water is an essential resource upon which all agricultural activity depends and farming family livelihoods are founded.
One of Australia’s most important water resources is the Great Artesian Basin, which houses approximately 65 million megalitres of fresh water underground in an area stretching from Cape York to Dubbo.
It’s estimated that water from the Basin underpins at least $12.8 billion in economic activity annually, including $3 billion from livestock within Queensland.
Over the past 15 years, the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative has been a fantastic water saving program delivering wins for the environment, primary producers and rural economies through infrastructure upgrades and improvements.
However, the job is not yet done, with an estimated 185 bores still requiring rehabilitation and about 5250km of associated bore drains needing to be replaced.
In the lead-up to this year’s Federal Budget, AgForce advocated for funds to keep flowing so the program keeps going, and we were pleased to see the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce commit an extra $8 million over the next two financial years.
It’s important the roll-out of this new funding occurs as quickly as possible so there is no gap after the completion of phase four of GABSI at the end of June, and we would look to the Queensland Government to also commit its share of funding in the upcoming State Budget.
AgForce is keen to see the program settings allow sufficient time for water drillers to complete works within reporting cycles as the current 12 months has proven difficult for projects to be proposed, approved and have the work completed to allow the release of government funding contributions.
AgForce stands ready to work with the Federal and State Governments to develop a new funding model to ensure continued investment in water infrastructure in the Basin. However in doing so, we need to acknowledge the financial pressures on bore owners associated with the ongoing drought and the lengthy recovery period producers will need.
With more than $75 million in infrastructure improvements still required, it’s vital a sensible co-investment approach is developed to carry the program through to completion to deliver benefits for all the industries and communities that rely on a healthy Great Artesian Basin. – AgForce General President Grant Maudsley