Media Release


Proposed river connectivity rules would cripple northern Basin communities

More than half a billion dollars a year will be ripped from the local economies of struggling northern Basin towns under inflated flow targets proposed by the Connectivity Expert Panel.

The flow targets would effectively prevent farmers accessing any water during wet periods under their supplementary and floodplain harvesting licences.

“At face value, the lost net return from the inevitable hit to food and fibre growing is more than $520 million dollars every single year,” said NSW Irrigators’ Council CEO, Claire Miller.

“That’s more than half a billion dollars ripped out of the local economies of towns such as Moree, Walgett and Bourke, which are already struggling with entrenched socioeconomic disadvantage, particular in their indigenous communities.

“The panel admits in its interim report that it does not have the data or modelling to fully assess the potential impacts on upstream users or the benefits to downstream communities of its proposed rules.”

“But that hasn’t stopped it making ill-informed recommendations to impose inflated flow targets that will effectively shut down irrigated agriculture in the northern NSW Basin.

“Even after recommending all but shutting down supplementary and floodplain harvesting water access, they want the Government to raid farmers’ general security accounts in the public dams if baseflow flows are still not meeting targets.

“And just for good measure, there’s an extra kick in the teeth for the Menindee community as well, with a recommendation that it is desirable to minimise storage in the lakes where possible.

“This rogue report is cause for alarm across the NSW northern Basin.

“The NSW Government must distance itself from the connectivity panel now if it is serious about supporting family farms in business and keeping small towns such as Moree and Bourke alive.

“We cannot afford to continue eroding access to the point farmers can no longer put water aside during wet years to help keep their farms and communities in business during the dry times.”

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