Water security for the region’s farmers has been thrown in doubt amid claims by the Federal Opposition that the Government has back flipped on almost $40m in funding promised late last year. The Federal Government pledged late last October it will still spend nearly $40 million on water security issues in the lower South West after the contentious Southern Forest Irrigation Scheme was officially scrapped. However Opposition Spokesman for Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Senator Jonathon Duniam and Member for O’Conner Rick Wilson believe the Government has abandoned the region’s farmers. “The people of the Southern Forest region were lead to believe that when Minister MacTeirnan canned the scheme, that money would be quarantined and reinvested in the Southern Forests area,” Mr Wilson said. When questioned at the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee, departmental representatives confirmed funding for the SFIS project had been scrapped as part of the 2023/24 budget process. However they also said that there was a pool of $824.4m available to assist the region’s farmers when the WA Government presented a revised project for consideration. At the hearing, Liberal Senator Slade Brockman said that at the time the SFIS project had been cancelled, there had been statements from both Federal and State government Ministers that the funds would be retained for the southern forests. “To me it sounds as though it hasn’t been (retained),” Senator Brockman said. “There’s a bucket there that people can apply for, for any project across Australia, but it hasn’t been retained for the southern forests.” The State Government announced in October last year that the SFIS project — which would have seen water pumped to a 15GL dam and distributed through 250km of pipelines to farmers — would not continue as the plan was based on outdated water modelling. At the time, then State Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan confirmed with the Times the Federal Government had agreed to the State’s request to retain Federal funding for a new water security initiative in place of the SFIS, alongside the State Government’s $16m. Mr O’Conner said that following the Minister MacTiernan’s statement farmers of the region were led to believe the funding would be quarantined for use in the southern forests region, and would be calling on Federal Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek to honour the commitment. Senator Jonathon Duniam said the Southern Forest region community has been gutted by both Federal and State labour governments. “A commitment was made and that commitment included the funding would be quarantined for future projects, to be determined,” he said. “The fact that they are not honouring that commitment is an absolute travesty.” Mr Duniam said he will be calling on Minister Plibersek to make sure the Southern Forest region community doesn’t miss out on “what it deserves” and what it was awarded under proper process. The Times contacted Minister Plibersek’s office for comment but did not receive a response by time of publication.