Farm Management

Queensland Production Nurseries future threatened with inadequate water allocations

Queensland’s production nurseries are experiencing firsthand the consequences of the QLD State Government not listening to industry’s water use needs.

Nursery & Garden Industry Queensland (NGIQ) Executive Officer Kerry Battersby said the viability of the industry was dependent on access to reliable and affordable water for irrigation.

“Working with government is vital to ensuring the future of the industry. During the consultation process for the Wet Tropics Water Resource Operating Plan 2013, there was insufficient consideration given to the production nursery industry’s water requirements,” said Ms. Battersby.

“Despite consultation and members of the Nursery & Garden Industry Queensland attending community consultation meetings, the water use guidelines ignored the specific needs of the industry.”

Nursery production is a unique cropping system within horticulture due to the crop being produced in artificial growing media in a defined container with limited capacity to store irrigation water. Unlike soil based crops, that have an entire soil profile from which to store and draw water, nursery production must irrigate crops daily to maintain available water within the container from which the plant survives.

An average production nursery requiring 22.5ML/ha to grow a crop. The Wet Tropics Water Plan has converted existing area based licenses in areas such as the Mulgrave Russell groundwater management area using an allocation of 8 to 9ML/ha from ground water sources for all cropping systems.

“The department has failed to consider the economic value per megalitre across horticulture. Nursery production returns on average $20,000 per megalitre of water used compared to soil based crops in horticulture averaging around $6,000 per megalitre,” said Ms. Battersby.

“NGIQ believes the Queensland Government must come to the table to redefine the ‘rules’ on water allocations based on cropping systems and the economic value returned per megalitre.”

“If no consideration is given to the above serious doubt remains over the viability of production nurseries in the Wet Tropics and elsewhere in Queensland.

“This is yet another blow to small business in regional Queensland on top of already wobbly economic outlooks”.

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