WHILE acknowledging the signing of the bilateral agreement as part of the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality as a breakthrough in the three year stalemate, WAFarmers has uncovered that the State Government has been pilfering funds that had been set aside for a portion of the State’s NAP contribution. WAFarmers has received advice that the $20 million that had been set aside from the sale of AlintaGas, specifically for salinity management purposes, has been eroded by the payment of "priority and assurance dividends" totalling $1.288 million over the past two years.
Our members have been frustrated for some time now by the politicising of the NAP funding by the Federal and State Governments.
The loss of $1.288 million from the State’s contribution to the NAP will be doubled through the loss of Commonwealth matching funding. Given the magnitude of the salinity problem in WA, the program certainly cannot afford the loss of any funds.
While the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Agriculture are trying to resolve the NAP funding issue, they are two lone voices in a city-centric cabinet unprepared to support the needs of rural and regional Western Australia in managing the salinity crisis. The Treasurer Eric Ripper has, in particular, lived up to his name again and "ripped off" agriculture.
There has been no explanation of why these funds had been dipped into or any mention of replacing them. We believe that this sort of action reinforces our view that the State Government’s commitment to the bush is tenuous at best.
WAFarmers trusts that this funding will be replaced and the NAP will proceed in line with past Government commitments. We would ask though where the replacement funds would be coming from and trust that it wouldn’t be at the expense of other rural programs.
– Garry English
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