Asa Wahlquist, Rural writer | March 30, 2009
Article from: The Australian
THE head of the country's leading water research centre yesterday called for an accord among irrigators and governments along the lines of the wages compact brokered by the Hawke government and the ACTU in the 1980s.
Gary Jones warned infighting between water users in the Murray Darling basin threatened to undermine reforms and billions of dollars invested in management over the past decade.
"Five years ago it was irrigators against the environment but now it is irrigator against irrigator, it is government against government, it is rural against city," said the chief executive of the Water Co-operative Research Centre.
"The last few months, there is a whole sense the whole thing could unravel," he said. "We are reaching this point where everyone is in such dire straits with water. We have gone into this siege mentality and I just felt we have got to find a way of breaking through it."
Professor Jones said growing tensions were evident across the nation and not just in the Murray-Darling.
He wants all those with an interest in water in the basin "to get together and figure out by what principles, on what basis, would they be collectively prepared to move forward".
The federal Government had done a good job by putting $12 billion on the table to buy back water and invest in irrigation upgrades.
"The problem is not about government or bureaucracy, it is about all of us lining up on this issue," he said.
"We have come so far, compared to five or 10 years ago ... there is a risk right now that this could unravel in the next six to 12 months if we are not careful."