SOUTHERN Riverina leaders want an investment fund set-up by the federal government to bankroll drought relief and infrastructure in the Murray-Darling Basin.
The call for a sovereign wealth fund is among eight recommendations in a water paper being released on Monday by the Riverina and Murray Joint Organisation (RAMJO).
It consists of 11 councils including Albury, Berrigan, Federation and those from Moama to north of Griffith.
RAMJO water security sub-committee chair Chris Bilkey, who is also the mayor of Murray River Shire, said a wealth fund would ensure the basin's agricultural industry could "adapt and innovate to get more value out of every megalitre of water".
"If two per cent can go to the Medicare levy then a percentage that goes to the securing of the Murray-Darling Basin food bowl is money well spent," Cr Bilkey said.
He added the fund could provide greater federal input into building new dams, a state issue traditionally.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Cr Bilkey said a wealth fund had merit in a COVID-19 world where the capacity of Australia to be financially and economically independent was in focus.
The idea was also in reply to the $200 to $300 billion being put into capital city infrastructure, such as train lines.
RAMJO recommends the investment kitty "provide a permanent source of funding for drought relief, infrastructure development, system maintenance and adaptation".
It also calls for changes in the superannuation and financial fields to "encourage investment into the Australian agricultural sector to ensure its future success".
Other RAMJO recommendations cover the water market, the impact of water prices, environmental flows, infrastructure, conveyance water and losses, drought and research.
On the matter of climate change it wants the federal government to lead an "evaluation of the impact of climate change on basin inflows and losses to determine the feasibility of infrastructure and other interventions to stabilise and, if possible, enhance inflows and storage capacity into the basin in the face of predicted future water scarcity".
Cr Bilkey said the paper was meant to be overarching.
He noted "voices in the water space" had been "very loud, sometimes strident, often antagonistic and often pitted one against another" be it divisions between downstream and upstream, states or crop growers.
"We've attempted to steer a pathway that has a whole of basin approach, that takes into account environmental, socio-economic and agricultural issues," Cr Bilkey said.
RAMJO will now lobby for the support of politicians with embargoed copies of the paper having already been provided to NSW and federal agriculture ministers.