• Hannah Phillips

Coorong & Tatiara Water Action Needed

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie will start working on a multi-million dollar funding package to help Coorong Tatiara farmers become more self-sufficient from the “exorbitant price gouging” of SA Water.

The package would include a campaign to allow the growers to access water efficiency with funding from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The money would be used for matched grants or low interest loans to assist growers’ transition from using the SA Water pipeline to projects such as small-scale desalination plants, lined catchments or water pipelines from Lake Albert or viable groundwater sources.

“Something has to change. Growers have been slugged with huge price increases every year since 2008 and are being crippled by annual bills of more than $100,000 just to water stock, said Rebekha Sharkie, the Party’s Federal Spokesperson for Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

“At current prices a $100,000 SA Water bill represents 66 cattle that need to be sold to cover this expense, before any return is made to the farmer."

Rebekha’s pledge on behalf of the Nick Xenophon Team comes after she hosted a public meeting at the Coonalpyn Hall recently that focused water security.

More than 70 landholders attended the meeting which was chaired by Henry Angas from the Coorong Water Security Advisory Group and facilitated by Coorong District Council and the Coorong Tatiara Local Action Plan.

Guest speaker at the meeting was also Party Leader Nick Xenophon.

"With the most expensive stock water in the nation, these farmers are being gouged by SA Water," Nick said.

"It’s become a cash cow that’s hurting the viability of livestock production and farming.”

Nick also said that there was an urgent need to seek Murray-Darling Basin Plan funds to save Murray water and alleviate dependence on SA Water and its crushing prices, including lined catchments and small-scale desalination plants.

“The rules for Murray-Darling Basin Authority funding need to be flexible enough for these farmers to access funds for these projects that will ease pressure on the Murray, and on the bottom-line of struggling farmers.

Farmers in this district are completely reliant on the 143km-long SA Water pipeline from Tailem Bend to Keith because of the ancient geography of the area and its hyper-saline groundwater.

The pipeline was introduced to the district in the 1960s, opening up the area to agricultural production. Most of this land is ideally suited to grazing.

“South Australia’s future prosperity lies in the regions and so we must ensure the regions can farm, including all pipeline-reliant communities in SA,” Rebekha said.

“The extortion of these farmers must stop.”

Rebekha called the public meeting after accepting an invitation from the Coorong Tatiara Local Action Plan to tour the district in October and see the water challenges first-hand.

“I wanted to run a workshop-style meeting where we could hear directly from the community about the issues they face and, more importantly, what the solutions should be,” Rebekha said.

“I will be working through the feedback from the meeting to formulate exactly what the community is looking for in terms of government policy but what Nick and I heard last week is that the community is tired of being ignored, tired of being told by SA Water their needs were not ‘significant’ and they want secure, reliable and affordable water.

“They are not looking for hand-outs, they are looking for hand-ups so they can transition to water selfsufficiency, something every South Australian should be supporting.

“This is something that State and Federal Governments should be working on together.

"I will be taking the community's concerns directly to the Prime Minister as the Acting Agriculture and Water Resources Minister and to Ian Hunter, the State Minister for Water and the River Murray."

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