Senator Simon Birmingham today asked why a River Murray infrastructure project that saves no water can be built in months, while others that could save billions of litres are years away from starting.
“I welcome the start of construction of pipelines providing greater water security for Lower Lakes communities,” Senator Birmingham said today. ”This important and worthy project will be of great benefit in securing the supply of potable water to these areas.
“However, if construction on this infrastructure project, which returns no additional water to irrigators or the environment, can start within months of funding being announced, why are other infrastructure projects that will deliver water savings being held up?
“A recent Senate Supplementary Budget Estimates hearing was told this potable water pipeline for the Lower Lakes and Narrung Peninsula is the only project to have reached the due diligence stage but is estimated to save little if any water.
“Other projects, such as the re-engineering of the Menindee Lakes in New South Wales, have the potential to return up to 200 gigalitres of water to environmental flows. Yet the Government will amazingly spend three years dithering on options and assessments before any decision to proceed is taken.
“The Rudd Government is dragging its heels on water infrastructure projects, refusing to commit to a timeframe for the rollout of $5.8 billion in infrastructure investment funds.
“The overwhelming message from a recent Coalition journey along the length of the Murray-Darling Basin is that the Rudd Government must unfreeze this $5.8 billion in water infrastructure spending.
“We have already identified at least 600 billion litres of water savings being wasted by not beginning the investment process.
“Irrigators and other primary producers are ready to make the savings and share the water with the environment. But they are simply not getting the support they need to make these savings.
“I welcome construction of the Lower Lakes pipelines, but call on the Rudd Government to show at least as much urgency in building infrastructure that will actually deliver water savings back to a Murray-Darling system so desperately in need.”