Pic source: www.mdba.gov.au
The Liberal-National Coalition Government is calling on irrigators, industry and potential delivery agencies to have their say on the design of a new on-farm irrigation efficiency program.
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and Nationals Senator for Victoria, Bridget McKenzie, said the Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) program was the first in the next generation of Australian Government programs that will support on-farm water use efficiency across the Basin.
“This is an opportunity for irrigators, industry, potential delivery agencies—and others with an interest in the program—to have their say and help shape the design of this important program to ensure it best meets their needs,” Minister Joyce said.
“This program will run until 2024, and will provide funding to help irrigators modernise their on-farm irrigation infrastructure—increasing efficiency and flexibility in water use on-farm, and delivering environmental benefits.
“But we want as many irrigators as possible to benefit from improved on-farm irrigation technology—so COFFIE will be rolled out across the Basin, and we expect that it will also accept smaller projects with a minimum of 10 megalitres of water savings.
“We are also proposing that any application that meets the criteria can be accepted and approved any time—rather than running competitive funding rounds.”
Senator McKenzie said the Liberal-National government has committed $1.575 billion for programs to upgrade irrigation infrastructure across the Basin.
“I would encourage local irrigators to get involved in informing the design of this next generation Basin-wide program,” she said.
“The minimum water savings from projects will be returned to the environment, while additional water savings will be retained by the irrigator.
“These types of programs are a key element in our delivery of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, and effectively support the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental outcomes.
“Participants in other similar programs—such as the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Programme (OFIEP) in Victoria—have found that benefits of participating go beyond water use savings. For example, irrigators have found the improvements they’ve been able to implement under the program have given them greater flexibility of crop choice, increased yield from crops and the ability to produce a larger crop from lower water allocations.
“The government is committed to delivering the Basin Plan on time and in full, and is investing an average of around $2.5 million dollars every day in infrastructure upgrades to support sustainable agricultural production, healthy rivers, and strong communities across the Basin.”
Amendments made to the Water Act 2007 in February 2013 require an additional 450 gigalitres in water savings (on top of the 2750 gigalitre target) to be made—provided that they are neutral or improved social and economic outcomes, and constraints in delivery for the additional water savings can be overcome. The amendments also included a legislated commitment of $1.8 billion to achieve the additional water savings. The next generation of on-farm irrigation efficiency programs being developed is funded from this commitment.
To find out more and have your say on the design of the COFFIE program, visit www.environment.gov.au/water/rural-water/coffie/consultation, or contact the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on 1800 218 478 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.