Sunday, July 21, 2024

No package plus buybacks = wasteland

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The spectre of water buybacks, plus the absence of a targeted support package for Riverland grape growers, risk turning local communities into “economic wastelands”, a local MP has warned.

Liberal Barker MP Tony Pasin has labelled a $3.5 million federal funding package as “too little, too late” and accused both Labor governments of ignoring the crisis confronting inland wine regions like the Riverland.

Mr Pasin said these areas are disproportionately impacted by the oversupply and diminished demand for wine grapes and will suffer under the looming water buybacks.

“The stripping of 450 gigalitres of productive water from the Basin further heightens the crisis that Riverland growers are confronting,” Mr Pasin said.

“The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics outlined in a 11 June 2024 report that even a small amount of water buybacks will see water allocation prices increase and irrigated agricultural production decrease.

“Once the water has left the productive pool, the price of remaining water will go up, potentially to a point at which many horticultural endeavours become uneconomic.

“When water leaves a district, so do the jobs, small businesses fold, the sporting clubs dissolve and the social and economic fabric of community’s wither.

“Labor’s state and federal governments must stop wasting any more time, listen to the wine growers’ industry in the Riverland, step up and save this critical food-producing region.

Mr Pasin said he has been writing to the appropriate state and federal ministers about the issue since 2022, seeking urgent action to support growers.

“But alas nothing meaningful in response,” he said.

“Growers are rightly angry and desperate.”

This article appeared in the Murray Pioneer, 19 June 2024.

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