Coorong farmers push for water infrastructure loans
COORONG livestock producers are calling on the state and federal governments to provide relief from paying some of the highest prices for water in Australia.
In the past decade SA Water mains prices have risen more than 300 per cent, to $3.30 a kilolitre, which the farmers say is threatening their viability.
This week the Coorong Water Security Action Group outlined potential solutions including $1 million dollars worth of grants to be invested to improve on-farm water efficiency including; leak detection units, water shut off devices and upgrading tanks, troughs and pipes.
The policy also outlines no interest loans up to $150,000 per registered livestock production businesses for large scale water infrastructure such as desalination units, piping projects, and lined catchments.
These loans would be paid back over 10 years.
Coorong District Council chief executive officer Vincent Cammell says investing in on farm water security would inject an additional $50 million a year into the local and SA economy, and will further increase the export capabilities of the region.
“The local livestock industry is a vital part of our region. While we often focus on the bigger picture, what people often forget is that on the ground, it supports local families, small business, communities, schools, sports clubs and sustainable land-management practices,” Mr Cammell said
“We’re partnering with Livestock SA and local farmers to ensure State and Federal government leaders pay attention to the issue.
“By gaining independence from the SA Water system, our livestock producers can save water from the Murray Darling Basin, secure property values and strengthen the overall viability of our region.
Over the past few months the group has met with leaders from Labor, Liberal and SA Best, ahead of the March 17 state election.
This week Australian Conservative Party MLC Robert Brokenshire visited the area and acknowledged it was a “serious problem”, with farmers facing annual bills up to $100,000 a year.
“It is having a detrimental impact on the economy of SA and I hope it doesn’t but if livestock prices drop there will be even more impact on livestock producers,” he said.
But he says interest-free loans, proposed by the SA Best party, are not the solution but getting mains water back to an affordable price for agriculture.
“Xenophon likes populous politics but he is not in government or understand government because the auditor general would never grant government powers for interest free loans,” Mr Brokenshire said.
“The infrastructure is there – it was primarily built to open the country up, but bad government policy several years ago has seen prices rise to an exorbitant amount,” he said.
Mr Brokenshire says the Australian Conservative Party will release its livestock water policy within a fortnight.