Rural affairs Land and water Australia

Budget Review 2009-10 Index

Budget 2009 10: Rural affairs

Land and Water Australia

Louise Emmett and Bill McCormick

Land and Water Australia (LWA) will be abolished, with funding reduced in 2009–10 and ceasing in 2010–11, saving $45.9 million over the next four years.[1] In 2009–10 $6.8 million will be provided to cover the costs of finalising existing research and transferring responsibilities to other agencies. Programs that will be transferred include Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge, Managing Climate Variability, the current phase of the National Climate Change Research Strategy for Primary Industries, the National Program for Sustainable Irrigation and the Australian Agricultural Natural Resources Online.[2]

Numerous rural and green groups have criticised this measure. The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) response indicates their disappointment in the cessation of funding for LWA  given that the productivity of Australia’s farming has been built on the back of research and development.[3] The NFF specifically asked the Government to reverse the decline in agricultural research and development funding in its Budget Submission for 2009.[4] Don Henry, Executive Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, called on this decision  to be reversed.[5] Andrew Campbell, former executive director of LWA said this decision ‘will save probably less than $10 million a year, and will finish up costing way, way more than that’.[6] Environment Centre Northern Territory coordinator and LWA director Stuart Blanch said ‘for the sake of saving $13 million a year when we are going into debt of $58 billion, the Federal Government has sacrificed arguably the best organisation in Australia for researching the sustainable use of land and water’. [7]

Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs, Sussan Ley, said the ‘axing of LWA represented Labor’s ignorance of the essential research into sustainable agriculture’ and that the savings of $12 million from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation could be ploughed back into the sector. [8]

The Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has also criticised the decision:

Land and Water Australia are one of the very few sources of funding for essential research into tackling some of Australia's biggest environmental problems and engaging farmers in managing the health of our soil, water and remnant native vegetation.

… Shutting down LWA will cut the legs out from under a whole string of ongoing research projects where LWA is one of the funding partners.[9]

The Government has indicated that in its view the functions of LWA are already catered for through the emergence of various other tertiary, public and private sector bodies for research and development in the area of natural resource management.[10]

[1].    Australian Government, ‘Part 2: Expense measures’, Budget measures: budget paper no.2: 2009–2010, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2009, p. 85, viewed 20 May 2009,

[2].    Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2009-10: budget related paper no.1.1: Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2009, pp. 189-202, viewed 21 May 2009,

[3].    C Burke, Budget ’09: farm sector to sustain nation through dark days, media release, 12 May 2009, viewed 21 May 2009,

[4].    National Farmers' Federation, Federal budget submission 2009: feeding a hungrier world, Canberra, National Farmers’ Federation, 2009, viewed 21 May 2009,

[5].    A Wahlquist, ‘Farmers, green groups slam Government’s funds axing’, Australian, 16 May 2009, p. 6, viewed 18 May 2009,;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressclp%2FTWKT6%22

[6].    Wahlquist, ‘Farmers, green groups slam Government's funds axing’.

[7].    ‘NT environment body cut off from funding’, Northern Territory News, 14 May 2009, p. 4, viewed 21 May 2009, http://parlinfo/parlInfo/download/media/pressclp/25KT6/upload_binary/25kt60.pdf

[8].    S Ley, Budget 2009: Rural agriculture gutted by Rudd, media release, 13 May 2009, viewed 21 May 2009,;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressrel%2F56MT6%22

[9].    R Siewert, Greens blast move to shut down Land and Water Australia, media release, 6 May 2009, viewed 21 May 2009,;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressrel%2F4QHT6%22

[10]. Budget measures: budget paper no.2: 2009–2010, p. 85.