Federal Government Urged 'not To Forget People' In Basin Plan

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13th October 2010, 02:51pm - Views: 1444

Media Release

Federal Government urged `not to forget people' in Basin Plan

The national organisation representing Australia's winegrape growers is urging the Federal
Government to "pay close attention" to the needs of people when assessing proposed water
cutbacks outlined in the recently-released Guide to the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Executive director of Wine Grape Growers Australia, Mr Lawrie Stanford, said the nation's grape
growers were deeply concerned about the proposal to cut water diversions by between 22% and
29% a year across the Murray Darling Basin.

"While WGGA recognises the importance of restoring water flows to the environment in the Basin,
we are keen to see that people in the Basin irrigation communities are treated with the same
amount of respect and dignity," Mr Stanford said.

"Reducing the water available by between 3,000 and 4,000 gigalitres a year would have a
potentially devastating effect on hundreds of small and independent winegrape growers in the
Riverland, Murray Darling-Swan Hill and Riverina along with the businesses and communities that
they currently support," Mr Stanford said.

"WGGA - on behalf of a critical agricultural sector that generates significant export revenue for the
nation is urging the Federal Government and the Murray Darling Basin Authority to pay close
attention to the balance between the needs of people and the needs of the environment.

"While we all recognise the importance of the environment, we want the Federal Government not
to forget about people either."

Mr Stanford said in presenting a strong case to the Federal Government, the WGGA will be
supporting regional grower associations that are working closely with affected regional

"While it's too early yet to determine the precise impacts of such savage cuts to water available
for irrigation - as growers have plantings of differing sizes under varying irrigation regimes in
different locations - there is no question that cuts of the magnitude of 22% to 29% would cause
widespread business failure and severe social disruption," he said.

"The Murray Darling Basin Authority acknowledges the socio-economic dislocation that would be
caused if the cutbacks go ahead."

Mr Stanford said, however, he welcomed an assurance by the Authority that its Guide to the
Proposed Basin Plan was not a "done deal".


"It is a positive that the Authority has embarked on an extensive two-month consultation period
among affected communities in the Murray Darling Basin," Mr Stanford said.

He said WGGA also welcomes the Government's assurance that water buyback will only occur
from willing sellers.

"The buyback will enable some financially-distressed growers to exit the industry with some
dignity as the Australian wine sector is still suffering the effects of a global winegrape oversupply,
punishingly high exchange rates and a highly competitive and crowded world wine market."

Mr Stanford said the immense changes proposed in the Basin Plan come at a bad time for the
winegrape growing sector, in particular, as it jeopardises the future of otherwise long term viable
businesses that are currently stressed in a difficult operating environment.

"Our message to the government is very simple: please consider the livelihoods of winegrape
growers and the impact on community life when making any future decisions on water cutbacks in
the Murray Darling Basin," he said.

"Through the Federal Government's discretionary powers to adopt or modify the Basin Plan,
WGGA appeals to it to exercise these powers with great care and to ensure that just and fair
transition arrangements, including financial assistance beyond the water buyback, are put in
place to address severe social disruption.

"And, finally, it's important to remember that vibrant and prosperous regional communities are a
critical factor in protecting the environment," Mr Stanford said, "just as a sustainable environment
is required to support prosperous regional communities."

For further information and media interviews, please contact WGGA Executive Director
Lawrie Stanford on 0417 859 282 or Chair Vic Patrick on 0408 849 533.

Wine Grape Growers Australia Incorporated ABN 15 475 806 313
Level 5, 19 North Terrace, Hackney 5069, PO Box 950, Kent Town 5071, Phone (08) 8362 9802 Fax (08) 8362 9804 Email [email protected]

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