Indigenous Australians use, and seek to use, water for both cultural purposes as well as contemporary economic reasons.
With governments seeking to explicitly include Indigenous engagement and cultural interests in water planning processes, AgForce notes the issue is important.
However, while supporting the provision of water for Indigenous uses, it is vital that this is done in such a way as to avoid impacts on existing entitlement holders and the environment.
This policy is aimed at ensuring that the interests of livestock and irrigated agriculture, including Indigenous farming interests, are protected under water legislation.
AgForce endorses the following policy:
- AgForce supports stakeholder consultation in water resource planning and management, including of Indigenous peoples
- AgForce supports the provision of water for Indigenous use, but only where this does not result in third party impacts to existing entitlement holders, including the environment
- AgForce supports the use of existing held and planned environmental water entitlements for the co-benefit of Indigenous cultural water use
- AgForce supports the use of existing market mechanisms to acquire Indigenous water entitlements from willing sellers for contemporary economic use
- Allocation of water within unallocated reserves (including strategic, general and Indigenous) should be equitable across stakeholder groups and with a consistent methodology that is applied across the state
- AgForce acknowledges that the ownership framework for Indigenous water entitlements for contemporary economic use is a matter for governments and Indigenous peoples, however additional restrictions to Indigenous entitlements that unnecessarily constrain trading should be removed
- If the above framework were adopted, the current hierarchy and security of water entitlements, as enshrined in state legislation, would be respected and therefore unaffected.