Podcast: Buy Water Rights, Sell Riverina’s Future

Last week Permaculture consultant Nick Huggins spoke to Anne Delaney from the ABC Riverina Breakfast radio program in Wagga Wagga, NSW. Listen here:

Nick Huggins Talks to ABC Radio About Riverina’s Water Blues

A backgrounder: Two Permaculture consultants, currently drought proofing a property in Livingstone, are calling for an end to the Australian Government’s water buy-back scheme, saying turning off the taps rather than helping farmers repair degraded landscape is selling the Riverina’s future short.

Over 9 days, Nick Huggins and Paul David Stockhausen from the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia (PRI) are implementing a plan to turn a degraded property in Livingstone into a drought-proof landscape that will see it use less irrigation water as each year passes while still growing ever more productive.

Nick says the project is an example of how the Riverina could take the little water that’s left in the region and get back to full production.

“With a proper management plan there is enough water available to get this area looking like the sunshine coast but instead 60 farmers have been encouraged to sell their irrigation entitlements, effectively locking their land into a permanent dry and degraded state.”

Geoff Lawton implemented a series of swales 12 months ago. Paul said “A year on and the results are clear, the swales and dams are full and there are springs popping out of land that was brown and dusty a year ago.”

On the buy-back scheme, Nick said “The Australian Government’s plan of buying back water and turning off irrigation channels may free up water in the short term but it won’t fix the environmental damage caused by years of over-grazing and chemical agriculture.

“If the government continues promoting this program it may worsen environmental problems, destroy communities and could ultimately lead to less food security for Australia.”

They both believe the Government needs to look at the bigger picture and put a renewed focus on sustainable agriculture.

“Implementing Permaculture principals has turned this farm green again with relatively low inputs, it wouldn’t take much to do this across the whole region and it can only improve the situation”, said Nick.

“Over the next 40 years we need more food not less, but if we just stop using water what future does the Riverina have? They might have to shut the post office down as well!”