Local expertise will be the cornerstone of work by the proposed ONE Basin Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to ensure the region’s farms and businesses are well-prepared for changing climatic and market conditions.

A bid to establish the ONE Basin CRC was pitched to the Federal Government yesterday. The success or otherwise of that presentation will not be known until next month, but the 10-year research initiative aims to offer an industry-led and basin-wide approach to the science needed to sustainably manage the Murray-Darling Basin’s resources.

The bid has the support of a consortium of industry and community groups, universities, government bodies and businesses which have committed more than $120 million to its operation. At last count there were 80 bid partners, including the Almond Board of Australia, Ruralco Water, Kilter Rural, Murray Darling Basin Authority, Hort Innovation, Wine Australia, Local Land Services NSW, Mallee Catchment Management Authority, Analytical Laboratories & Technical Services Australia Pty Ltd, Mallee Sustainable Farming, the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre and SuniTAFE.

Dried Fruits Australia was involved in the initial industry consultation to develop the ONE Basin CRC proposal, a move welcomed by Chief Executive Officer Anne Mansell, ABOVE.

Mrs Mansell says the Mallee is a “powerhouse” of Australian irrigated horticulture and broadacre cropping and the bid includes plans to locate one of the CRC’s five research hubs in the region.

Combined, the Mallee, Sunraysia and Wentworth areas contribute more than $10.6 billion to the Australian economy, much of it from agriculture, manufacturing and tourism.

Some fast facts about our region include that it accounts for 98 per cent of Australia’s dried fruit production; 70 per cent of table grapes and almost one quarter of wine grapes. It also is the nation’s second-biggest citrus-growing region and home to almost half of Australia’s almond trees.

“Water is the lifeblood of the region’s economy,” Ms Mansell said.

“We’re highly dependent on water for irrigation, for the tremendous environmental assets we have here as well, and for our tourism sector.”

Ms Mansell says the ONE Basin CRC proposal is particularly exciting because it brings together existing knowledge and will drive for further research into even more efficient water use and delivery methods, especially for irrigation.

“We’ve done a lot already, but there’s always more to learn,” she says. “Most important is having local input into the research from people here who have had a great many years of experience in the water industry or in the horticultural industry or the environmental sector.”

The Mallee Regional Hub would be located at the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre in Mildura. Staff would work closely with the Lower Basin Regional Hub at Loxton, in South Australia, on common cross-border issues and solutions, especially those related to viticulture, almonds, dried fruit and citrus.

ONE Basin CRC interim CEO, Mike Stewardson made a personal presentation to the CRC Advisory Committee yesterday, during the final stage of the current CRC selection process.

Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Thomas is expected to announce the successful CRC bids next month, with funding to be issued in October.