Weatherill shortchanges SA irrigators by $90 million

24 Feb 2014 newsarchivemedia

South Australian irrigators and river communities are missing out on more than $90 million of vital funding due to inaction by the Weatherill Labor Government

The Private Irrigation Infrastructure Program for South Australia (PIIP-SA) was created in 2009 with $110 million allocated to the program.

However, it was revealed in Senate Estimates today that there “hasn’t been an interest from the South Australian Government in having a third round run under PIIP-SA” despite approaches to do so by the Commonwealth Government.

Shadow Water and River Murray Minister, Michelle Lensink said, a Marshall Liberal Government, if elected on March 15, will work with the Commonwealth to implement another PIIP-SA round.

“Premier Weatherill, the self-proclaimed ‘champion’ of the River Murray, has failed to establish accessible guidelines that would allow South Australian food producers to take advantage of the $90 million on the table,” Ms Lensink said.

“South Australian irrigators are among the most efficient in the world and it is a crying shame that this important funding has not been allocated since 2011.

“This is despite the Federal Government making a number of approaches to SA to begin a third round of funding, or to suggest alternative projects for the available funds. Unbelievably, the Federal Government is still waiting for SA to respond to these approaches.”

Member for Chaffey Tim Whetstone, whose electorate is home to thousands of food producers, said the lack of funding spent through PIIP-SA has been a cause of frustration.

“South Australia is still required to return 83 gigalitres as part of our shared reduction target for the southern connected basin as part of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and PIIP-SA funding could be used to help us reach that target,” Mr Whetstone said.

“The major issue with PIIP-SA is around eligibility criteria and accessibility but the Weatherill Labor Government is seemingly unwilling to work with the Commonwealth to negotiate for farmers in the river corridor to access this funding equitably.

“It is outrageous that Labor appears to have put this in the too-hard basket.”