NSW Irrigators’ Council (NSWIC) is calling for an immediate round table discussion on the implementation and administration of the NSW Non-Urban Water Metering Policy to put an end to the unfair finger pointing at irrigators.
The announcement comes after the irrigation industry called out the Natural Resource Access Regulator (NRAR) for presenting unverified and non-ground-truthed data to media, which pre-emptively suggested widespread non-compliance. This “desktop study” utilised the DQP portal which was never designed for such use and following a week of verification, NRAR has now corrected the figures.
“Irrigators in NSW have supported the world-leading metering reform in NSW, albeit ambitious and expensive for the industry,” said a NSWIC spokesperson.
“It is not a lack of will or interest, but a fundamentally flawed delivery of the policy and lack of market capacity that makes it impossible for industry to meet requirements, despite best efforts. This truth needs to be told.”
“We need Government and agencies to genuinely understand the barriers irrigators are facing, through no fault of their own, and find a way forward.”
“The irrigation industry takes metering compliance very seriously, and have a zero-tolerance approach to non-compliance, so it is just not acceptable that government have put us in a position where we have no means of becoming compliant, despite best efforts, and left us to cop the blame. We demand urgent action on this issue.”
“The anxiety and stress faced by irrigators who are desperately trying to be compliant, but have no way of actually becoming compliant, is a major concern. This is in addition to the relentless vilification of the sector which takes a toll on irrigation communities more broadly. This cannot continue.”
Recent media created an impression that ‘two-thirds of irrigators don’t meter water take’ which is entirely incorrect.
“Irrigators in NSW have long been required to have a meter to measure water take, and this is also additionally verified through satellite technology. This reform is about transitioning meters to a world-leading high standard.”
“Our industry remains fully committed to this reform, despite the difficulties in implementation, and assure people that it is through no lack of will that these delays have arisen.”
With more than 10,000 surface water sites requiring transition under the metering reform in Tranches 2 to 4 in northern Basin (2021), southern Basin (2022) and Coastal NSW (2023), it is crucial that a round table discussion reveals and resolves the issues with the reforms roll-out to ensure its effective implementation.
“The industry has fostered a productive relationship with agencies throughout the metering reform process constantly communicating the barriers irrigators are facing throughout the process, and seeking solutions. The industry has made our best efforts, and we need government to step up and be accountable for their policy.”
NSWIC wrote to agencies on several occasions prior to the publication of the misleading data, informing them of the situation. NSWIC has also written to NRAR with an expectation they will publicly clarify the remarks through a clear statement of the barriers to compliance for water users, and noting the efforts of industry to comply.