GAB Funding Drying Up

ABC Rural Report - Monday 16/11/09
http://www.abc.net.au/rural/regions/content/2007/s2743493.htm

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There are fears funding for improving and maintaining water levels and pressure in the Great Artesian Basin, may be drying up.

Lobby group the Great Artesian Basin protection group says there is not sufficient funding for a scheme to stop free flowing bores on the basin.

The capping and piping scheme was established in 1999, the federal government matches funding put up by states to help farmers who cap and pipe their bores, in the hope of stopping water wastage and increasing overall pressure in the basin.

In July this year the New South Wales government sold 12 thousand megalitres of water from the basin, their promise was that the sale would encourage new businesses and jobs in rural Australia, and make more money available for capping and piping.

Secretary of the GAB protection group, Anne Kennedy, says there’s no sign of new jobs.

“When the sale went ahead, to the best of our knowledge, not one new business arose from these sales. We were amazed that the bulk went to people who not only already had bores but they hadn’t even bothered to cap and pipe them, they were still free flowing and they still simply went and bought more. We think the selling off of licenses was irresponsible.”

Ms Kennedy says there are concerns the money for capping and piping is drying up.

“At the moment there¬†will supposedly be $30 million available over five years (in NSW) and it won’t start for another two years, its just too little and too slow.”

She says she believes the GAB needs to be managed by an overarching body rather than by different governments.

“We’ve got the ridiculous situation now where the federal government is buying back water licenses and the state governments are selling them off.”

The Great Artesian Basin coordinating committee is board of representatives from across the basin who advise governments on basin decisions.

The committee was instrumental in establishing the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI), a funding program for the capping and piping scheme

Chair of the committee, Jeff Austin, says costs have blown out since the program started.

“When we first started the GABSI, there were estimates put forward as to how much might be involved, but as we’ve gone down the track, we’ve noticed with the pressure restoring it looks like to could be posing other problems, things like inter-aquafa leakage. So we believe that the funds the federal government is putting up, to be addressed by the states, is addressing what we initially thought we needed but theses other issues may come to the fore and show that we need more.”

Mr Austin says he believes state and federal governments are capable of managing the basin between them.

“One of the roles of my committee has been to advise ministers on how they can approach it, but each state has a mandate to operate and control the waters within their state, but from a coordination point of view, were advising the ministers so that they’re all getting the same information.”

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