Farmers in southern NSW believe bureaucrats are unnecessarily “playing with livelihoods”.
Their increased concerns follow a bizarre decision by the NSW Government to keep NSW Murray irrigators on a zero allocation, despite widespread rains across many parts of southern NSW.
Chair of Walkool Rivers Association John Lolicato said the frustration was at a previously unseen level, with people in the south feeling they are not being given the same “special treatment” as those in the north.
“How can we have widespread rains with minor flooding in some areas, including excellent falls in the upper catchment, yet at the same time have a government that refuses to give us a water allocation?
“Lots of people are saying if the department (of Water) is not going to issue them with an allocation, then maybe they need to start harvesting the water that floods onto their property. After all, that’s what they allow to happen in the north. We are getting punished for having a modern, accurate metering system.
“It is pretty disheartening to watch as embargoes are lifted during the first good rains up north where there is no licensing, when down here we are metered, measured and allocated – or in this case not allocated – to the cupful,” Mr Lolicato said.
“Farmers have had a gutful of the unfair playing field. If we are not going to be allocated water, then we should play by the same rules as the north.”
Mr Lolicato said farmers believe NSW Nationals’ politicians should intervene in the allocation decisions and demand the Department announces an allocation in the interests of regional communities and the nation.
“Barilaro (Deputy Premier) and Pavey (Water Minister) have to stand up and be counted. We keep getting told they are listening, but there seems to be lots of talk and little action.”
Their federal colleague, Senator Perin Davey, has offered a solution that will provide the much-needed allocation in the NSW Murray.
Senator Davey, who has many years’ experience in water management, has highlighted that the NSW Government is holding excessive water in reserve … more than it has kept in the past, and this was before the recent widespread rains.
Mr Lolicato said: “If the National Party members in the NSW Government have any concern whatsoever for our communities, they need to talk to Senator Davey and implement the solutions that she has identified.”
The decision on Friday May 1 to leave NSW Murray general security irrigators with a zero allocation comes after some parts of their region received record April rainfall, with more rain predicted.
An allocation announcement would be a massive confidence boost after the best autumn break in years. Sowing of winter cereals and fodder began in March for many farmers across southern NSW, but to capitalise on it they need the allocation. This would guarantee water to finish crops and maximise yields in late winter or early spring.
“We are staggered with a decision to continue our zero allocation,” Mr Lolicato said, “especially when the Lower Darling received a 30 percent allocation and there was a 20,000 megalitre improvement in resource for the NSW Murray.
“The mid-April allocation statement reported an 80,000 megalitre resource increase, which has been set aside for next year. It just feels like the goalposts keep moving.
“Like Senator Davey, we cannot understand why the NSW Government is squireling away more water than it has reserved in the past, without at least allocating something to the general security licence holders in NSW Murray, who are the drivers of our nation’s staple food production.
“Barilaro and Pavey need to stand up and be counted; they must demand this changes.”