Hands off Snowy

May 19, 2017

Food and fibre producers have expressed concern at a Federal Government proposal to take full ownership of the Snowy Hydro Scheme.

Treasurer Scott Morrison announced in the Federal Budget that it wants to pursue the purchase of larger shares or outright ownership of the iconic Australian scheme from the NSW and Victorian Governments.

The message from Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Graeme Pyle is short and simple: “Get your hands off!”.

Mr Pyle said the Federal Government had proven its inability to effectively implement water policy, to the detriment of all Australians.

‘‘Our nation does not need Mr Turnbull and his cohorts getting total control of Snowy Hydro. There is potential for this to be another disaster for food and fibre producers,’’ he said.

The Federal Government has said it wants to buy the 87 per cent of Snowy Hydro that is currently owned by the NSW Government (58 per cent) and Victorian Government (29 per cent).

The Federal Government also proposes a $2 billion upgrade that would increase the scheme’s electricity generating capacity by almost 50 per cent.

Mr Pyle reminded politicians that Snowy Hydro was built for a dual purpose — to drought proof western NSW and generate electricity.

‘‘Its role of providing water that can grow food for domestic and international markets has taken a back seat,’’ Mr Pyle said.

‘‘Despite this, there have still been occasions during low water allocation years, including last year, when we have been able to negotiate the use of Snowy water for food and fibre production.

‘‘I have no doubt that if Mr Turnbull has total control of Snowy Hydro the needs of our agricultural sector will be forgotten.’’

Mr Pyle said Snowy Hydro stores water for use in both states, and generates a huge amount of wealth for NSW and Victoria which would be lost forever in a sale.

‘‘I fear what would happen if it was under Federal Government control. After all, the feds don’t have a good record when it comes to water policy, and it’s an issue Mr Turnbull doesn’t seem to understand.

‘‘The appalling manner in which the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is being implemented is testament to this. We have removed enormous quantities of water from productive use, but have no genuine scientific idea of how much is needed for our environment.

‘‘It gets poured down the rivers to try and keep open the Murray Mouth, which was historically an estuarine system, and along the way causes environmental damage to river banks, helps breed more carp and inundates private land.

‘‘The Federal Government simply does not know how to effectively manage our precious water resources. In my mind, that’s a proven, indisputable fact.

‘‘I believe the Basin Plan will go down in history as yet another Federal Government policy disaster, and if the Snowy sale goes ahead it’s likely to also end up in this category.’’

Mr Pyle urged the NSW and Victorian governments to reject any approaches to sell their shares in Snowy Hydro.

‘‘It is time we concentrated on finding the right balance so we can use water to grow the food and fibre on which our nation and the world relies, protect local communities, as well as care for our environment.

‘‘Putting more control of water into Federal Government hands is not going to achieve these important goals.’’

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