RIVERINA farmers’ dreams of a new dam appear to have been dashed by the government’s fixation on northern Australia.
Local member Michael McCormack, who sits on the community-based Build More Dams Committee, told The Daily Advertiser Queensland would be first priority for new water storage.
Griffith rice farmer Chint Quarisa said local irrigators were being “screwed down to nothing” and politicians needed reminding the Riverina was Australia’s most productive irrigated food and fibre bowl.
“They’re taking away the raw ingredients I need to earn a living, pay my debts and educate my children,” Mr Quarisa said.
“Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent over the last 100 years making this an irrigation area to produce food and income for Australia – but politicians have lost sight of that.
“We have the soil, technology, machinery and best rice farmers in the world - but they won’t give us the water we need.
“Thousands of hectares of almonds have just been planted and they use more water than rice, but we’re letting fresh water go out to sea.”
Prime minister Turnbull celebrated the $200 million water infrastructure fund for northern Australia on the floor of parliament last week, boasting it was “Australia’s future”.
“The huge water resources and the huge potential for agriculture (in Northern Australia), enhanced by greater irrigation is immense, and we are putting the dollars behind that vision,” Mr Turnbull said.
Mr McCormack conceded new dams would be built in northern Queensland before Narrandera or Gundagai, but continued to lobby Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce for a a local solution.
“There are sites in central Queensland which would serve as flood mitigation as well as holding dams, which take priority given Queensland’s flood record in recent years,” he said.
“A lot of people would argue Lake Coolah (near Narrandera) is not deep enough and would become an evaporation pond.
“The Gundagai site would require land acquisition, which governments aren’t generally in favour of, and significant environment impact studies.”
Rapidly fading hopes for a new dam comes as a likely July 2 election will extinguish the prospect of legally enforcing Thursday’s Murray-Darling Basin senate inquiry recommendations.
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