Bush Summit 2019: Farmers, experts, politicians talk water issues

Panellists: Griffith grain grower Ben Dal Broi, Nevertire cotton farmer Tony Quigley, water expert David Harriss and Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay, were the four speakers on the water topic at the Bush SUmmit. Photo: Taylor Jurd
Panellists: Griffith grain grower Ben Dal Broi, Nevertire cotton farmer Tony Quigley, water expert David Harriss and Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay, were the four speakers on the water topic at the Bush SUmmit. Photo: Taylor Jurd

Before introducing the panellists for the 'importance of water in the bush' session at the Bush Summit in Dubbo, emcee and political cartoonist Warren Brown described the issue as "a topic that has torn apart rural Australia."

Nevertire cotton farmer Tony Quigley, Griffith grain grower Ben Dal Broi, water expert David Harriss and Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay, were the four speakers on the topic.

Mr Quigley said water use efficiency was probably the most critical thing for every farmer and it didn't matter whether it fell out of the sky as rain or was irrigation water.

"We need to use it better, 'more crop per drop' and that's what we've set out to do on our farm over a long time," he said.

Riverina irrigation farmer Mr Dal Broi said he sees a positive future for agriculture and while some say to scrap the Murray Darling Basin Plan, believes some sort of water plan needs to be in place.

"So if I think long-term... I want to know we've got certainty of the resource and we need to know it's a balanced and everyone gets a fair go at it."

Mr Harriss said there was no magic bullet and they've been tested, such as the Bradfield Scheme and investigations into diverting the Clarence River.

He said there were options for water infrastructure including the potential to increase the storage capacity at Menindee.

"One of major points is you can be as efficient as you like in water management and dam management.... but you must also be incredibly efficient in your on-farm infrastructure....," Mr Harriss said.

In a surprise twist that got everyone talking during the Q&A after the session, the first person to ask the panellists a question was Barnaby Joyce.

The Member for England disagreed with Mr Harriss saying that if Australia doesn't start on a major water infrastructure project like the Bradfield Scheme then the water issue will continue.

"There is no solution but new water coming into the system," he said.

Speaking to the Western Magazine after the session, Mr Joyce said "we can, we should and in fact we must" build projects like the Bradfield Scheme.

"Otherwise we're just going to reinvest in this water argument over and over and over again," he said.

"It needs new water in the system, therefore it has to come from a different system and it has to come from a different system that's got vast excess of water, because people who are only marginally better than us are not going to let their water go."

The session was moderated by Brian Tyson from Newgate Communications.