CYNICISM was left at the door of yesterday’s Watering Australia forum in Moree where irrigators learnt of a looming inter-governmental water sharing agreement.
Political persuasion was also ignored, as Deputy Prime Minister, National Party Leader and Gwydir MP John Anderson and NSW Natural Resources Minister Craig Knowles shared the stage.
Irrigators, farmers, bureaucrats and politicians listened and learnt of the proposed State and Federal-agreed water plan – and many appeared to walk away confident that it was the first positive step in the water debate in years.
Mr Anderson’s message from the lectern was loud and clear that water transcended politics.
“Our future on the land depends on getting it right,” Mr Anderson said.
“Over the last two months, we have seen a remarkable joining of the minds, the development of a shared vision of national water reform in Australia.
“In particular groups with different interests are agreeing on the fundamental principles that need to be settled.”
A room of about 500 people heard of the broad national framework for water reform.
Such a framework could become legislation if supported at the Council of Australia Government (CoAG) at the end of the month.
Gwydir Valley Irrigators’ Association executive Michael Murray said the forum was not just the coming together of the two politicians, but of all stakeholders.
Mr Murray said it was no secret that in the past irrigators were cynical when it came to the promises and the resulting actions of politicians.
“The forum offered irrigators a chance to see first-hand the thinking of the major players in the water debate,” he said.
NSW Farmers’ Association president Mal Peters, a forum speaker, highlighted the need to consider social and economic impacts, as well as environmental outcomes, as potential cuts to water will affect farmers and regional communities
“Yesterday was an historic step in the water debate,” Mr Peters said.
“Detailed concepts of a joint State and Federal water framework were not so much the focus of the forum, as cooperation and transparency.
“I now have every confidence that we are really going to get there this time.”
Earlier this week, Upper Namoi Valley Groundwater Users’ Association president Andrew Pursehouse said irrigators concerns were ” the need for certainty that farmers would not foot the cost of environmental reform, certainty that non-land owning public companies could not trade water licences and security by form of a property right”.
A suggestion yesterday, also mentioned in this week’s Wentworth Report, was the founding of individual water trusts to oversee the management of the nation’s watercourses.
These trusts would also manage structural adjustment grants between farmers and government.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.