Politicians have been asked to ‘step up to the plate’ and help stressed farmers who are battling a ‘risk averse’ bureaucracy that lacks understanding and empathy.
Organisations across southern NSW have joined forces and urged state Members of Parliament to take “every action possible” to boost water allocations in the region’s irrigation communities.
Joining the fight for a more practical approach in NSW are 10 organisations which have signed a letter sent to all state politicians seeking their support. NSW Murray irrigators remain on a zero allocation and Murrumbidgee irrigators are on a meagre 6%, despite the state having adequate storage.
Spokespersons Shelley Scoullar and Deb Buller said it makes no sense to stockpile water for high priority needs next year while many general security licence holders have no allocation, especially with forecasts of above average rainfall in autumn and winter.
“This is occurring because of the risk averse nature of bureaucrats involved in making allocation decisions who need to understand the stress it is causing in our farming communities. Our farmers need help to solve a worsening situation,” they said.
They were heartened with comments last week from NSW Nationals Senator Perin Davey, who said the NSW Government could declare a five or six per cent allocation for NSW Murray general security licence holders simply by releasing some of its reserves.
Senator Davey said NSW was currently holding back more water for high priority needs next year than what has been reserved in the previous two years. Even if they only released half of that they would still be reserving more than they held at the same time last year, while allowing for the provision of an allocation.
Mrs Scoullar and Mrs Buller said it was “quite obvious” that increasing reserves at such a desperate time has major negative impacts on our farmers.
They also raised concerns about the NSW department responsible for water deciding to make the final allocation statement on May15 when the water season officially ends at June 30.
“If there are good rains between now and June 30 will there be an opportunity for an allocation announcement?
“Again, the department’s actions have created additional and unnecessary stress upon our communities that desperately need water. To make matters even worse, water brokers were alerted at least two weeks earlier than farmers to the fact the season would be closed. This should not have been allowed to happen.”
They said they were buoyed by the verbal support given by the Deputy Premier John Barilaro for food producers in the state’s southern irrigation regions, however it is important this translates to action. And the essential priority action required is an allocation for those on zero, plus an increase for those who have a small allocation.
“Mr Barilaro and Water Minister Pavey need to pull all department personnel involved in managing water together and ask them to review their current policy position in line with the suggestion from Senator Davey. We live in the hope that the bureaucracies are made aware that people and livelihoods in this state are important and all parties involved in water policy settings need to work together in the national interest of food security. Currently there is a feeling within our communities that we have been abandoned,” they said.
Organisations supporting a call for water allocations to be increased include: Speak Up Campaign, Murray Regional Strategy Group, Murrumbidgee Valley Food and Fibre Producers, Griffith Business Chamber, Murrumbidgee Industry and Agriculture Communities, Leeton Business Chamber, NSW Farmers Bunnaloo branch, West Corurgan Private Irrigation District, Southern Riverina Irrigators and Campaigners for Regional Equality. It also had support from a number of private businesses.