Livestock SA president Geoff Power fears for the future of the SE drain network.Livestock SA president Geoff Power says the lack of funding in the State Budget for repairand maintenance of the SE drains leaves the future effective operation of thenetwork in limbo.
Mr Power said the additional funds required for the drains’ ongoing upkeep had not beenaddressed.
“The State Budget papers show an allocation of $2.293 million for the SE WaterConservation andDrainage Board – which has previously been committed by Minister forSustainability, Environment and Conservation Ian Hunter,” Mr Power said.
“However, the question is how much of that will be used for drains maintenance. LivestockSA’s understanding is that majority of the funds will be used for the board’s administrationcosts and that only one‐quarter, or about $600,000 a year, will actually go to drains repairand maintenance.
“The government has long known that more funding than the $2.2m committed was requiredto meet maintenance expectations and requirements. In 2015‐16, there was a $1.639minvestment in maintenance of the SE drainage system but there is no allocation for 2016‐17.
“In March 2015, the community panel – assembled by the government – rejected that the SEcommunity be directly charged to fund the ongoing maintenance and operation of thedrainage network.
“They argued the drains provided benefits to the whole state and, since itwas a state‐owned asset, the government should fund its ongoing maintenance andoperation.
“The drains will deteriorate and all that hard work and effort of previous years will be lost ifthere is no commitment.”
Mr Power said the budget showed there were funds allocated to the SE Flows RestorationProject, but this was a completely separate project to the maintenance issue.
“The project will construct new drains that connect the Blackford Drain with the Coorong tohelp with salinity management in the Coorong South Lagoon, enhance flows to wetlands inthe Upper SE and reduce drainage outflow at Kingston beach,” he said.
“There are some concerns with this project as well in terms of how effective it will be inachieving its goal, the quality and quantity of water that can be diverted to the Coorong, andthat maintenance of these new drains will be handed over to SE landholders to fund.
“Some landholders are concerned there could be major flooding of the drains over pasturesand that some smaller farmers will lose productive land that they cannot replace, impactingtheir longer term profitability.
“South East livestock producers really need to see some leadership and commitment fromthe SA Government to work with them to achieve the common goal of an effective andefficient drains network supporting an extremely productive area of our state – a significantcontributor to the state’s economy.”
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