This week the Tasmanian Government took decisive action to invest in excess of $2.27 million in initiatives to ensure farmers and rural communities are best placed to respond to dry conditions.
I promised to continue to work with farmers and the industry on ways we can help them to prepare for the short and long term challenges.
There is no doubt we are in the grips of an abnormally dry season and unless it rains we have only a small window of opportunity to help farmers avoid setback.
Water is the lifeblood of our farms and this Government is unashamedly putting farming families and rural communities first when it comes to accessing it.
We are taking action so that farmers can sensibly share the water in our rivers for longer, before environmental restrictions kick-in.
A new Ministerial Policy on Water Resource Management During Extreme Dry Conditions will take effect immediately.
This will modernise our water management framework and better balance the water needs for people, stock and irrigators during extremely dry conditions.
This policy will minimise hardship on farmers and regional communities by ensuring that, particularly in spring, there is timelier and pragmatic decision making before the tap is turned off – something that the current framework does not provide for.
It is a transparent set of provisions that provide for more flexibility in how and when cease-to-take restrictions are applied on a catchment by catchment and case by case basis.
It means that in some catchments farmers may have access to a share of small amounts of remaining licensed water for longer than they otherwise would have until restrictions kick in.
Importantly, the policy prioritises where there are viable alternative sources of water are available, such as through the 10 current Tasmanian Irrigation schemes.
Many farmers have invested in the peace of mind of 95 per cent reliability water delivered through Tasmanian irrigation’s schemes, and this value is protected.
The state’s National Water Initiative obligations will continue to be met and protections for significant environmental values will apply.
We are standing side-by-side with our farmers, and together we are working towards the best water management for our state.