Drought, technology, not water savings to blame for job losses

Water savings and on farm efficiencies and drought have put the muzzle on jobs growth on farms in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Water savings and on farm efficiencies and drought have put the muzzle on jobs growth on farms in the Murray-Darling Basin.

There’s been a massive loss of on farm jobs in southern NSW in the last 18 years, according to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority – but it says the basin plan is not to blame.

The Authority says the survey showed the job losses occurred due to “drought, population decline and on-farm technology”.

There had been a 13 per cent decline in all employment in the region, but just a quarter of that was the result of the plan, the report said.

Murray-Darling Basin Authority chief executive Phillip Glyde said the findings were a reality call for southern communities, but they would eventually benefit from the sustainable achievements of the Basin plan. 

"When you think about it across the Basin, we're removing roughly 20 per cent of the water that had previously been used," Mr Glyde said. "Whilst part of that water removal is through being more efficient with it, you are taking away, in the short term, income from the farming community and the communities that support farmers.

"The reason that's being done is we want these industries to survive into the future. As climate change and other things begin to impact and as we address the over-allocation of water in the past, this is putting the industry and those communities on a secure footing.


"Some people will say that we have overestimated the impact, others will say we've underestimated," he said.

But the broader picture is better for employment in regional NSW. NSW Budget papers this week reveal employment  growth has accelerated in regional NSW over the last three years, averaging 2.4 per cent annually.

“This growth has been concentrated in full-time employment, which has accounted for more than 66 per cent of additional jobs in the regions. Regional female employment growth has been particularly impressive, growing by 3.6 per cent annually over the past three years, accounting for 70 per cent of total regional employment growth.”

The Budget says that strong employment growth has contributed to a significant fall in the regional unemployment rate to 5.7 per cent. 

“Solid labour market conditions, affordable housing and attractive lifestyles are enticing more people from Sydney, Newcastle and the Illawarra to regional areas – in net terms 13,000 people made the move in 2016-17. Around 57 per cent of this flow was to three regions – Mid North Coast, the Hunter Valley and the Central Coast.”

The value of residential building approvals in regional NSW was at a record high of $4.5 billion over the last year.

This story Nearly 40 per cent of farm jobs disappear in Basin first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.