An independent economic analysis for the NSW Government has found reduced access to
floodplain harvesting will cost affected irrigators $126 million due to reduced production.
The report by water economics consultancy Aither analyses the economic impacts of the NSW
Government’s plans to reduce floodplain harvesting by about a third across the five northern
NSW Murray-Darling Basin valleys, and licence and meter the practice.
It found the reform will cut the value of on-farm production by between $19 million in a dry
sequence and $273 million in a wet period. Under a median conditions scenario, farmers face a
$126 million, or 14 per cent, loss.
“We hope this independent analysis puts an end to the bizarre perception that reducing farmers’
access to floodwater is somehow in their personal financial interest,” said CEO Claire Miller.
“These irrigators want to do their bit to ensure that all water use complies with sustainable
diversion limits, but this reform nonetheless comes at a big social and economic cost.”
The reform will hit the Gwydir valley hardest. Centred around the small town of Moree with a
large Indigenous population, the valley is facing a $93 million, or 20 per cent, reduction in the
value of agricultural production and 41 fewer jobs each year.
“We have seen across the Basin the negative socio-economic impacts of reduced water access to
meet the Basin Plan’s Sustainable Diversion Limits in every river valley,” said Ms Miller.
“Regulating floodplain harvesting as part of the Basin Plan will be a significant adjustment for
farmers who rely on storing floodwater when it is abundant to grow food and fibre.
NSW DPIE modelling finds the reform will meet the environmental water requirements of native
vegetation, native fish and waterbirds more often, by an average of 82 per cent, 97 per cent and
142 per cent respectively in the Gwydir Valley alone under the new regulation.
“The reform will be one of the largest transfers of water from irrigators to the environment. It is
a credit to the impacted farmers that they are backing this environmental reform.”
Floodplain harvesting in NSW currently uses just 3% of the northern Basin’s annual average
inflows. Once the practice is licensed and metered, this will be reduced to just 2%.