As floodwaters recede from recent heavy rainfall, farmers in coastal valleys are distressed at the missed opportunity to store more water to help them maintain production in droughts after the NSW Government changed the coastal harvestable rights rules.
NSW Irrigators’ Council CEO Claire Miller said the Government’s sudden reversal on coastal harvestable rights earlier this year was a blow to farmer resilience against drought and communities in dire need of additional water sources to combat fires.
“The decision to again restrict coastal farmers to capturing just 10 per cent of runoff from their properties, as opposed to 30 per cent in the previous agreement, was made without consulting affected landholders and key stakeholders,” Ms Miller said.
“This rule change removes the ability of farmers to adequately plan or prepare for the impending drought and has caused much distress in regional communities. It is also a missed opportunity to reduce the need for farmers to pump from rivers when flows drop during summer.
“The Government’s own studies indicated that 30 per cent harvestable rights in coastal catchments had minimal, if any, discernible impact on river flows.
“Further, any applications for an increased harvestable right were subject to rigorous local impact assessment, and could be refused if unacceptable localised impacts were found.
“The drought is coming whether we like it or not, so now is not the time to make life harder for farmers growing the food for our tables.
“NSWIC is now in consultation with the Government and is hopeful that a solution can be found that again allows farmers to apply to increase their harvestable right.
“The Government’s language in support of farming communities is promising, and this is an opportunity to show that it can make sensible decisions that allow farming and the environment to work side by side.
“NSWIC understands that the NSW Government is now doing further studies to determine sustainable levels of extraction along the coast.
“Communication and consultation will be key during this period and we are optimistic the Government will take stakeholders seriously and listen to both sides of the debate.”