$2b government water loan fund hasn’t given a cent
Not a single cent has been spent from the federal government's two billion dollar loan scheme to help state governments build water infrastructure since it began.
In the midst of a crippling drought, the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility has not received any applications from states or territories seeking to build water infrastructure to boost farm production and secure water supplies, officials have confirmed in senate estimates.
The Daily Telegraph understands the fund, administered by the Regional Investment Corporation, would be used to loan the NSW government 25 per cent of the cost of three critical dam projects announced earlier this month, but no application has been processed yet.
Launched in July last year, the facility offers low-interest loans of $10 million or more to governments, but this week RIC chief executive Bruce King told estimates no money had gone out the door.
"We currently have no loans under the National Water Loan Infrastructure Facility," he said.
Labor's water spokeswoman Terri Butler said desperate communities in drought were being failed by a "central plank" of the government's water infrastructure agenda.
"The Morrison Government's drought and water security credibility is in tatters," she said.
"There appears to be no start date, no completion date and no plan for the Government on their key water announcements."
A spokesman for the RIC said in light of the lack of applications the loan conditions would be changed to encourage governments to make use of the funds.
"Our priority has been talking to state and territories governments and project proponents to understand their finance needs and where our water infrastructure loans can best help," he said.
"We're working with the government to make our loan settings more efficient and expect more interest in our water infrastructure loans once these changes are made."
The loan facility is expected to provide about $250 million to the NSW government to build dams at Dungowan and Wyangala, and explore a project at the Upper Mole River.
During estimates it was also revealed the RIC has approved 272 loans to farmers, of which 234 were for drought, while 64 applications were rejected.
It comes as the National Farmers Federation released its recommendations for dealing with current and future droughts after handing its report to the government last week.
Earlier this month Drought Minister David Littleproud said the government had "held off" producing a full response to a report it commissioned from the Co-ordinator General for Drought Major General Stephen Day waiting for the NFF to finish its policy.
But yesterday Mr Littleproud could not say when the government's response to either plan for dealing with the drought would be released.
"Cabinet is considering Major General Day's report. We will respond to Major General Day's report and the NFF's report in due course."