Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Gillard Government supports irrigators

Media release
13 February 2013

The Gillard Government will support irrigators and irrigation providers to better manage their networks into the future under a new program announced by Water Minister Tony Burke today.

Mr Burke said the Strategic Sub-System Reconfiguration Program forms part of the Government’s response to the recommendations of the Windsor Inquiry that raised concerns about the so-called ‘Swiss cheese’ effect where government water purchases impacted on the efficiency and viability of shared irrigation networks.

“There has been a common refrain from irrigators and irrigation communities at almost every meeting since I started in this portfolio. They have consistently put the view that if buy back does occur they should be strategic and not random.

“But the challenge has remained that there will be many different views on what actually constitutes a strategic purchase.

“This program is about letting local infrastructure operators lead strategic decisions.

“If some areas are to be reconfigured these decisions are made a the local level but the water recovered can contribute basin wide to the health of the Murray-Darling.

“This is yet another example of localism driving better outcomes to restore the Murray-Darling to health.

Mr Burke said leaders in the irrigation industry were consulted about the design of the new program, leading to greater flexibility being included to encourage projects which meet the circumstances of individual districts.

The new program replaces the Irrigator Led Group Proposals program which has now closed for new applications.

“Water entitlements recovered by the government through this strategic program will help ‘bridge the gap’ to the sustainable diversion limit in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan,” Mr Burke said.

Funding of $200 million over four years was announced for this program in the 2012-13 Budget.

The first call for applications of the program will be on 18 February 2013 with a closing date of 2 April 2013.

Further details including guidelines and application form for the program will be available at  or by emailing or calling (toll free) 1800 218 478.

The new program is part of the Australian Government’s Water for the Future initiative.