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Axing land and water research doesn't add up - Greens

The axing of Land and Water Australia (LWA) seriously undermines agricultural and natural resource management in Australia and will be opposed by the Australian Greens.

"Senate Estimates today revealed that much of the crucial research and extension work currently being carried out by LWA will not be taken over by other agencies," said Senator Rachel Siewert.

"I cannot believe how short-sighted this government is when it comes to securing the future of our agriculture and managing our natural resources."

"LWA is the only research and development organisation that is carrying out this public good research into the sustainability of our agricultural landscapes. This function will now be totally lost."

"LWA currently fund and manage 120 projects with many other partners, and also have 26 other research projects currently under development," said Senator Siewert.

"At this stage the Rudd Government do not know which projects will continue in some form and which will come to a dead stop."

"Key programs and activities that no-other organisation has been supporting, such as knowledge brokering, and the networking and sharing of information between researchers, regional natural resource management groups, and land managers will be lost."

"Bureaucrats within the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries do not have the knowledge, expertise and relationships needed to replace this invaluable work."

LWA, which had a recurrent budget of $13 million, will receive $6 million in 2009/10 to wind up its operations. For every dollar it invested LWA produced $4.80 of direct economic benefits.

Funding has also been cut from the sustainable new industries development component ($3m) of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC).

"It is unbelievable, at the time when our natural resource management and agricultural systems are under so much pressure, that the Government should cut this crucial research," said Senator Siewert.

"We have billions of dollars being spent through Caring for Our Country and Water for the Future, but no-one is addressing the serious knowledge gaps that undermine the impact of these programs."

"Ministers Garrett and Burke are badly mistaken if they think there is not a need for sustainable new land-use systems for our drying wheat-belts, or those areas of the Murray Darling Basin where irrigation water is too rare and expensive a commodity," said Senator Siewert.

"We need a much better understanding of the resilience of the ecosystems of our rivers and floodplains so we can better manage their health in water-constrained future. We need more investment in regional seasonal forecasting so we can better manage climate risk and protect our food security."

"These are short-sighted cuts to areas which should be research priorities for the future of Australia's unique landscapes," concluded Senator Siewert.

For more information or media enquiries please call Tim Norton on 0418 401 180

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