Glasses half full

Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited the state last week to announce $60 million in federal government funding for irrigation schemes in Tasmania, pictured with Circular Head Farmer Advisory Group chairman Mike Buckby (left) and Federal Member for Braddon Brett Whiteley.

Resource. Local farmers are being urged to take advantage of a “once in a generation” opportunity following a funding boost for the Circular Head Irrigation Scheme.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited Tasmania last week to announce $60 million in federal government support towards five proposed irrigations schemes, adding to $30 million committed by the state government and a similar figure from the private sector.

Circular Head Farmer Advisory Group chairman Mike Buckby said the idea of an irrigation scheme had been in the works since 1973, with the estuary of the Duck River targeted as a reliable source of water to tap into.

“There’s a surety of the water supply for this scheme – it’s a once in a generation opportunity,” he said.

“It’s unique in Australia. Other states are looking at Tasmania and how they’ve done it, and looking at replicating it in other areas.”

Close to 50 per cent of farmers who put in an original expression of interest have signalled their intent to invest, with the Farmer Advisory Group now looking to use the recent announcement to persuade more to get on board.

Mr Buckby pointed to statistics taken out of Cape Grim in reinforcing a slowly drying climate, advising that while some farmers may have a bore on their property it should not be solely relied upon.

“Since 1976, we’ve lost about 25 per cent of our rainfall in our first six months of the year,” he said.

“We’re encouraging farmers who would like to look at the scheme [to do so] . . . we can [now] confidently go and say there’s funding there.”

Circular Head Irrigation Scheme project manager Paul Ellery said the funding announcement was “really pleasing”, particularly for those who had already “put their hands in their pockets” prior to additional support.

“It’s up to famers to act with their feet and buy into a scheme to match that uptake,” he said.

“We’ve been reviewing the engineering to get water to those people who have put down a deposit. The likely outcome now is that we’ll give farmers a last opportunity to participate next month.”

While praising the funding as “tremendous news” for the tranche two schemes, Federal Member for Braddon Brett Whiteley delivered a scathing assessment of other media reports at the Harcus River Road upgrade launch on Friday.

“Watered down? You can’t cut money you never had. Seriously, let’s get positive folks,” he said in addressing those gathered at Marrawah.

And on both major projects: “It’s not the Labor party’s money or the Liberal party’s money: it’s the taxpayers’ money. Circular Head has always contributed, therefore it’s not unreasonable that taxpayers’ money go back in.”

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