Agriculture welcomes back water resources
Hello, you may notice this edition of Water Matters is coming to you from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. In late September, water resources made the move from the environment portfolio over to its new home in the agriculture portfolio.
Barnaby Joyce has an expanded role as Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, joined by the new Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Ann Ruston.
Minister Joyce said he welcomes the return of water policy to the agriculture portfolio.
“Water is the lifeblood of rural Australian communities and economies, and a critical input for agriculture. Our water resources must be managed sustainably and with a long-term vision. It is our goal to deliver the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental benefits,” Minister Joyce said.
So, for all your inquiries on water policy, water acquisition and markets, water infrastructure projects, and water resources please contact the department on 1800 218 479 or at www.agriculture.gov.au.
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWO) will remain with the Department of Environment. This includes the government’s responsibility for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. To contact the CEWO please visit www.environment.gov.au or email ewater.
Improving on-farm irrigation efficiency
COFFIE provides funding to help irrigators modernise their on-farm irrigation infrastructure. In return, water savings that irrigators are confident of achieving will be transferred to the Commonwealth, with any additional savings retained by the irrigator.
There is $1.575 billion of funding available for irrigation infrastructure upgrade programs. There is no limit within the amount for the COFFIE program.
COFFIE will be rolled out across the Murray-Darling Basin to give as many irrigators as possible the opportunity to access funding for infrastructure improvement.
“My natural sympathy is for the people on the land, and the people in the small towns who rely on the success of agricultural industry to survive, and I am working to ensure the average $2.5 million we are investing every day in infrastructure upgrades best supports sustainable agricultural production, healthy rivers and strong communities across the Basin. The government is committed to ensuring that the Basin Plan is delivered in ways that maximises social and economic benefits for Basin farmers and communities in delivering the required environmental outcomes,” Minister Joyce said.
We are also seeking delivery partners to work with irrigators to design, manage and implement these irrigation infrastructure improvement projects. This will ensure proposals are technically feasible and suitable for the property.
Irrigators must be a registered owner of an eligible surface water entitlement and able to submit a project that will generate a minimum 10ML water saving.
More information about COFFIE is available on the Department of Environment website or by phoning the Department of Agriculture on 1800 218 478 or email Efficiency Measures.
Drought support in Australia
The Australian Government recognises this too, which is why we are committed to supporting farm families and businesses who are doing it tough—and helping to build a strong and resilient agriculture sector. This includes working with state and territory governments to support farmers prepare for and manage through drought and provide assistance when needed.
A number of drought assistance measures are available, including those recently announced in the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.
Farmers can use many of these practical initiatives to manage drought, and also to manage the broad range of production and business risks they face.
Australia will always stand by farmers in drought and the White Paper provides long-term support for farmers when they need it most. The White Paper measures include:
- increased financial counselling services
- increased case management for Farm Household Allowance recipients in their final year
- improved access to community mental health support and counselling
- funding for pest animal and weed management in drought-affected areas.
There is up to $250 million available this financial year for drought concessional loan schemes, as well as $2.5 billion for a new, ten-year scheme.
There are also a number of taxation concessions, such as Farm Management Deposits, which allow farmers to conserve income during good years for use during low income periods and more favourable accelerated depreciation for water and fodder infrastructure and fencing for farmers.
The Australian Government is also supporting drought-affected communities by funding local infrastructure projects that provide employment for people whose work opportunities have been impacted by drought.
More information on measures announced in the White Paper and other drought-related assistance provided by the Australian Government can be found on the department’s website.
Update on National Water Infrastructure Development Fund
To achieve this, we are introducing the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund (the fund).
The fund is worth $500 million over ten years and supports the detailed planning necessary to inform water infrastructure investment decisions, and part-fund the capital agreed priority projects. There is $50 million available for feasibility studies and $450 million available towards construction of infrastructure.
We are currently seeking expressions of interest from state and territory governments for a share of $25 million in funding for feasibility studies. Local government and non-government organisations who are interested in seeking funding for feasibility studies will need to work with their relevant state or territory government agency to bring forward their proposals.
Feasibility studies are an essential part of developing robust business cases for capital investment. We are interested in supporting water infrastructure projects that will demonstrate technical and financial feasibility, clearly articulate demand for water, as well as ensuring the long term affordability of the structure for all users.
The fund will support new or augmented dams, pipelines or managed aquifer recharge that have the potential to drive the growth of regional economies.
Expressions of interest for the feasibility component are now open and will close on 21 January 2016.
Funding for construction of water infrastructure is available from 2017-18.
The National Water Infrastructure Development Fund is an initiative of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.
Phillip Glyde moves to MDBA
Mr Glyde joins the MDBA from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, where he is currently a Deputy Secretary. He has been with the department for almost ten years and in that time has been involved in agriculture and drought policy, international trade and market access, export certification services, and ABARES.
Mr Glyde’s experience will be particularly relevant to the MDBA, including his work in natural resource management, economics and complex state and Commonwealth issues.
“I’m looking forward to taking up the new role. Water is key to Australia’s future and the MDBA’s work in the Basin is critical to the communities and industries that rely on the Basin and its ongoing health,” Mr Glyde said.
The appointment of Mr Glyde comes two months after Dr Rhondda Dickson ended her tenure as MDBA CEO to take up a senior role with the Department of Environment.