The news that the Department of Environment will remove unnecessary audit requirements from the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Programme (OFIEP) has been
warmly welcomed by Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF). The relaxation of the requirements, which ADF has been advocating for well over 12 months, will
save programme participants in the southern-connected region of the Murray Darling Basin significant time, money and stress.
The issue arose from the Department of Environment insisting that every single farmer who got funding from the OFIEP, had to get an independent audit of
their works, in addition to the individual farm compliance documents already held by the delivery partners. All of this was at the farmers’ personal
expense and within 60 days of the end of each financial year.
The audits were designed to ensure that each of projects was completed within the terms and conditions of work contracts, and that the Government funding
provided was spent appropriately.
On Wednesday 20 May, ADF received a letter from Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister for Environment, the Hon. Bob Baldwin MP, acknowledging ADF’s
concerns around the cost imposition and stipulating alterations to the requirements. Farmers are now instead required to undertake an audit at the
end of their project, rather than at the end of each financial year, and may use their personal accountant rather than a costly independent auditor
to do this review.
Chair of the ADF Natural Resources Policy Advisory Group, Daryl Hoey said that while farmers had no objection to being accountable for their spending,
the audits ultimately became red tape.
“The requirements were onerous from both a time and money perspective. Removing the additional requirements for farmers will mean savings of up to $2000,
plus reducing the added pressure of going through an audit process,” Mr Hoey said.
“Beyond this it will also assist in streamlining the way in which the programme is rolled out, which may encourage greater uptake of irrigation improvement
ADF is strongly supportive of infrastructure programs under the Murray Darling Basin Plan as they have demonstrated significant cost-benefit, with upgrades
to existing infrastructure delivering approximately $9800/ML worth of increased farm productivity.
An important part of the 450 GL recovery through on and off farm infrastructure savings under the Murray Darling Basin Plan, the On-Farm Efficiency Programme
involves participating farmers transferring water entitlements back to the environment that are equivalent to half the savings they achieve. In return
farmers receive government investment on their farm to improve their capacity to produce more milk from less water.
Upgrades already carried-out under the programme have delivered approximately $9800/ML worth of increased farm productivity per year.
To find out whether you’re eligible for the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Programme, click here