Will Hodgman’s government has learned nothing in the four years since extremely dry conditions in Tasmania threatened water supply for farmers.
In 2015 the South East Irrigation Scheme Stage Two was put on restrictions, limiting farmers to just 2% of their water right.
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the South East Irrigation Scheme Stage Three was opened in the same month, with a promise it would deliver highly reliable irrigation water.
“At that time, Jeremy Rockliff named up some of the biggest investors in Tasmania’s agriculture sector as beneficiaries of the scheme, the same businesses that now have investment at risk because of dramatically reduced water allocations just two months into the season.
“Will Hodgman’s government promised to protect the investment made by irrigators, investment that supports Tasmania’s reputation for premium produce, and supports creation of much-needed regional and rural jobs.
“Far from being able to invest with confidence, those businesses are now worried that without certainty of water, their crops will fail, contracts with supermarkets will be placed at risk, the reputation of nationally recognised businesses and the Tasmanian brand will be on the line and ultimately jobs will be lost.”
Ms White said the current situation is unacceptable, particularly when the Government launched a new Ministerial Policy, Water Resource Management During Extreme Dry Conditions, in response to the 2015 restrictions to prevent impacts on farmers occurring again.
“It was Jeremy Rockliff who said in 2015 that this new Ministerial Policy would, ‘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”.
“Embarrassingly for Guy Barnett, he seemed oblivious to the policy when asked today whether it was currently in effect.
“Using scrutiny hearings as an excuse for not attending a meeting with irrigators is very thin. Guy Barnett could have fronted the meeting and still made it to Parliament for hearings on time.
“If Guy Barnett was truly committed to meeting with irrigators to address their concerns he could have arranged the meeting for a time when everyone, including him as Minister, could attend.
“The Minister has ignored his own Ministerial Policy, he’s avoided meeting with irrigators and the Government has turned the tap off on farmers without warning, once again.”
Rebecca White MP
Tasmanian Labor Leader