Moama water summit

By Sophie Baldwin

All things water were on the agenda for a Waterpool summit held in Moama last week.

About 300 people attended on Wednesday, November 20 to hear 12 presentations from guest speakers including representatives from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the ACCC, Beyond Blue, Kagome and South East Water.

Waterpool chief executive officer Peter Lawford was delighted with the event.

“It was a fantastic day and we were really pleased with the way everything went. The speakers were great, the information was good and we have received some lovely feedback,” Mr Lawford said.

This was Waterpool's first foray into large audience presentations and it has plans of hosting more in the future.

“Part of our objective as a not-for-profit organisation is to provide activities that promote water as an agricultural resource,” Mr Lawford said.

Kagome chief executive officer Jason Fritsch spoke about the pressure high water prices are putting on the company, which employs more than 300 locals during peak season.

The Japanese-owned company is totally reliant on the temporary water market for all of its water requirements.

In 2018 it sourced 16 252 Ml at a cost of $148 million to grow tomato, corn, garlic and carrot crops. In 2020 it forecast the cost to be $606 million and there will be no corn grown at all.

“Since July 2016 Kagome has absorbed a $6 million increase across water and utilities,” Mr Fritsch said.

In 2020 Kagome will subsidise its contract tomato growers $36/tonne because the high cost of water has made growing the crop financially unviable. This subsidy alone adds $1.3 million to the cost of production.

CEWH southern basin section director Hilary Johnson was peppered with questions during a panel discussion later in the morning.

Lockington dairy farmer Gerald Schaper's question to Ms Johnson asking if the CEWH accepted his own farm was an environment capable of supporting wildlife was met with a cheer from the crowd.

Lockington dairy farmers Mark and Ann Gardiner came away from the summit feeling better informed.

“You only have to listen to two or three good speakers to make it worthwhile,” Mr Gardiner said.

“Jason Fritsch's presentation was excellent and covered our position as irrigators in a nutshell — his parent company doesn't understand what is going on with Australian water management and neither do we,” Mrs Gardiner said.

“Their business might have a few more zeros on the end but they are experiencing the same issues we are.”

She also said she enjoyed the presentation from Beyond Blue ambassador Brad McEwan.