Last week’s State Budget, while heavily focused on measures to alleviate cost of living pressures, also delivered investment in biosecurity, drought preparedness, water and energy infrastructure and planning.
Key budget announcements include funding to further uplift our biosecurity preparedness and capability including $21.7 million over five years, and $2.8 million each year thereafter. This is welcome news for action against current and emerging plant pests and diseases as much of our competitive advantage and market access in horticulture is a direct result of our biosecurity systems. At recent biosecurity training we heard loud and clear that the pressure on emerging plant specific pests and diseases entering the state is far greater than the animal industries. This additional funding is warranted.
Also announced was the creation of 15 new permanent jobs within Biosecurity Queensland to identify and manage biosecurity threats; $60.9 million over four years to continue delivery of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program; and up to $35.7 million over 5 years and $7 million per annum ongoing to meet Queensland’s obligations under the National Biosecurity System to help mitigate the risks and impacts of significant animal and plant pests and diseases.
We were disappointed in the announcement that the Cape York Biosecurity Centre at Coen will be closed. QFVG will continue to hold the government to account to protect the State from emerging horticulture-specific biosecurity risks. We also expect Biosecurity Queensland to work closely with us and with key stakeholders in the north Queensland region.
Further funding under the Drought Assistance and Reform Package will assist primary producers prepare for drought with up to $48.5 million over 3 years to be invested in programs and grants, and $100 million over 2 years allocated for loans.
Energy is a crucial input cost for agriculture, and it is vital that farming agribusinesses are supported to make energy investment decisions and achieve sustainable, long term energy efficiency.
After recent successes in this space, QFVG supports the inclusion of a $35 million investment for the Queensland Business Energy Saving and Transformation Program, which includes targeted support for agriculture to enable advice and contribution to energy efficiency measures and infrastructure.
In addition, $1.7 billion has also been earmarked for water infrastructure and planning commitments, including safety improvement works and raising of the Burdekin Falls Dam, Paradise Dam works and the completion of Rookwood Weir.
We were also pleased that the budget confirmed $22.8 million over two years to continue the government’s commitment to discount irrigation prices by 15 percent – a win for horticulture.