Water

Call to use existing infrastructure

By Country News

Governments need to prioritise spending on getting best use of existing infrastructure before building new schemes, according to the Southern Riverina Irrigators.

SRI chair Chris Brooks said recent announcements of government spending on new works was not the best use of resources.

The Federal Government recently announced it would spend $1.3billion on major regional water infrastructure projects, on top of the $4.2billion the NSW Government has received from the Snowy Hydro sale, a majority of which will go to further regional works.

‘‘Here in the NSW Murray region we have arguably the best gravity feed irrigation system in the world, but it is lying idle because of poor government policy,’’ Mr Brooks said.

‘‘At the state election our region made it abundantly clear that we want the mess fixed up, and the starting point is putting productive water through our system. That should be the priority of state and federal governments.

‘‘It’s all well and good wanting to spend vast sums of money on new projects, but what about first looking at the world-class system which isn’t being used?’’

Mr Brooks said he hoped the focus on water following the NSW election would encourage politicians to ‘‘think smarter’’ and put in place the support needed that would allow SRI members to get back to growing food.

‘‘The first step must be to use established infrastructure — systems that were specifically built to drought-proof western NSW — before we look at building new systems,’’ he said.