Media Release

Forging ahead on water infrastructure

16 October 2014

Minister for Agriculture and chair of the Water Infrastructure Ministerial Working Group, Barnaby Joyce,  said that today's announcement that the Coalition Government will continue to fund the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI) is the next step in water infrastructure and part of the response to the call for further assistance to drought.  

"Today's GABSI announcement is the third major water initiative announced by the Coalition in days, with augmentation works at Chaffey Dam commencing last week and a National Water Infrastructure Roundtable announced earlier this week," Minister Joyce said.

The Coalition Government is providing clear evidence of action in water infrastructure and real delivery in the expansion of agricultural assets. 

Minister Joyce recently visited drought affected communities with Treasurer Joe Hockey and saw firsthand the importance of piping and capping the artesian bores.

"Capping and piping of the bores is one of the key requests that was asked of me on the recent drought tour with the Treasurer and it is very encouraging that this issue is now dealt with as part of further assistance to drought affected communities," Minister Joyce said. 

"During meetings with farmers in Walgett, Charleville and Mitchell the value of the GABSI initiative – which the former Labor Government withdrew funding for – was highlighted over and over, with strong calls for the scheme to be continued.

"The Prime Minister has also recognised the importance of water infrastructure not only to mitigate the impact of drought but to enable growth in agricultural production.

"In the context of the current drought it is also important that rehabilitation works continue so that the benefits of investment to date are maintained and advanced.

"The Great Artesian Basin is an endowment of rain events from millions of years ago. It has been millennia since this water last saw daylight and to waste it is an extravagance we cannot afford and I’m proud that under GABSI, water savings of over 95 per cent are being achieved."

Minister Joyce said that the GABSI programme also allows better stock and pest management as water can be switched off to areas to bring stock in. Further capping and piping of the uncontrolled flow of water from bores will help secure continued access to water by towns, pastoralists, irrigators and extractive industries, while also protecting the health of important groundwater dependent ecosystems and associated tourism operations.

"In recent times we have had both the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Treasurer noting the importance of water infrastructure projects and it is great to see the Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, and Parliament Secretary, Simon Birmingham, continue funding for this important water initiative," Minister Joyce said.