Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce says the 450Gl ‘up-water’ to be delivered as part of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has to happen as long as it’s not detrimental to the economy.
Speaking at Jeftomson Orchards on the weekend, Mr Joyce said the potential socio-economic impacts the plan could deliver was the reason for the change in portfolios.
‘‘The reason we took it back into agriculture, and away from environment, is so that we have a depth of understanding of the socio-economic outcomes of what happens with the acquisition of water,’’ he said.
‘‘We want water back into agriculture. We put past the legislation to cap buybacks at 1500Gl.
‘‘We’re making sure that our in-stream measures, to avoid taking water off towns, are apparent.
‘‘We’ve got the northern basin review out of the way to try and nullify and mitigate the effects there.’’
The 450Gl of ‘up-water’ is part of the legislation, but Mr Joyce has his hands tied when it comes to acting on the legislation.
‘‘Can I take it off the table? It’s in the legislation,’’ he said.
‘‘It is part of the process but it cannot happen with socio-economic detriment. Now we will concentrate on these things chronologically.
‘‘The first thing is to work out what to do with the 650Gl of ‘down-water’. That’s less than what we have to put in. We’re just about there but we have a few things that the states are signing off on.
‘‘Then we go down the process of the 450Gl of ‘up-water’.
‘‘Of course that has to happen without any damage to the economy of Shepparton,’’ he said.
■Mr Joyce was in Shepparton to announce an additional $30million available for farm businesses rebuilding following the downturn in dairy prices as well as an investment of $2.2million in three new biosecurity projects to protect Australia from plant pest and create more export opportunities for the horticulture industry.
‘‘Our Farm Business Concessional Loans enable farmers to refinance existing debt, fund normal operation and bankroll activities to increase productivity.’’
The biosecurity projects include a trial of automated fruit fly traps and a strengthening of the fruit fly surveillance program, and a grants program for work to prove areas are free of pests.
‘‘Many of our trading partners require evidence of our strong biosecurity and freedom from pests and diseases to allow our produce into their country,’’ Mr Joyce said.