Modernisation sees big boost for small communities

Richard and Carmel Schwager on their Wee Waa property.
Richard and Carmel Schwager on their Wee Waa property.

A Wee Waa farm will benefit from a significant sustainability boost in 2018, through on-farm improvements made under the NSW Government’s Sustaining the Basin Irrigated Farm Modernisation (STBIFM) program.

The program recently awarded its ninth and final round of funding, with five successful proponents joining more than 80 project partners who have taken part in the program since its launch in 2012.

The STBIFM program has enabled the recovery of more than 34,000 megalitres of water so far, through investment in farm modernisation projects including overhead irrigation technology, reconfiguration of water storages, laser levelling of fields, and upgrading to automated systems.      

The 34,226 ML of water recovered to December 2017 comprised 23,631 ML of water entitlement that has been transferred back into the Murray Darling Basin for environmental flows, and an additional 10,595 ML that has been kept on farm for agricultural production.

Leader of the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) STBIFM Program Dr Michael Grabham said the grant provided to Wee Waa irrigators Richard and Carmel Schwager would help upgrade key parts of the family farm and improve on-farm water use efficiency.

“The STIBIFM program provides opportunities for farmers like the Schwagers to pursue modern on-farm improvements, while also returning much-needed water to the Murray-Darling Basin,” Dr Grabham said.

“The improved infrastructure will see each participating farm use water more efficiently during the irrigation season, allowing them to be more productive and viable in the long-term.”

Mr Schwager said the STBIFM grant has enabled the family to renovate their water storage and repair critical infrastructure, work which they wouldn’t have otherwise had the financial resources to implement for years to come.

“The modernisation means we’ll be able to maintain our production with less megalitres, and that means we can survive longer during dry periods,” he said.

“It will also make it easier for us to irrigate with less night work, and therefore provide a better quality of life for the whole family.  

“Strong farms mean strong towns, and I believe the STBIFM program has been well-used and highly successful in keeping farmers and rural communities viable.”

The STBIFM program, implemented by the NSW DPI, has seen $102 million invested in improved infrastructure in NSW.

A total of $79 million has been funded by the Commonwealth, with irrigator partners contributing an additional $23 million to STBIFM projects. 

The Australian Government is providing more than $13 billion for implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and associated activities, with the vast majority (more than $8 billion) being made available for modernising infrastructure and water efficiency improvements. 

The Sustaining the Basin: Irrigated Farm Modernisation Program is funded through this initiative.

With the project wrapping up in 2019, DPI staff will continue to provide training resources and support to irrigators over the next twelve months.

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