NSW Irrigators’ Council (NSWIC) has written to all major political parties in NSW demanding an end to the reckless politicisation of long-overdue reform.
Successive governments, from both sides of politics (but initiated by Labor), have spent 18 years trying to regulate floodwater take, and bring it into a transparent and accountable compliance framework. Parliament will soon consider the regulations to finally put that framework in place.
“Irrigators have accepted we need a stronger regulatory and compliance framework for floodplain harvesting, even though this will means less water to grow food and fibre when it does flood” said NSWIC CEO, Claire Miller.
For the Gwydir Valley, over 30% of the floodwater once accessed by farmers will be returned to the environment, if these reforms proceed.
“If those directly impacted can accept the need for a stronger regulatory and compliance framework, we expect our politicians can step up and do the same.”
“It is reckless and irresponsible for our politicians to playing politics with so much at stake for families, communities and the environment.”
Failure to proceed with these regulations would be reckless for the environment, as take will remain unmanaged. Failure to proceed would be reckless for irrigators who need clear rules and certainty to operate their businesses. Failure to proceed would be reckless for compliance with the Basin Plan.
“In 2021, to have an entire water source not included within the contemporary compliance framework is simply unfathomable.”
“Irrigators support the reforms to reduce, meter and license floodplain harvesting – not because we love it – but because all forms of water take should be licensed, metered and within sustainable limits. We and the public expect no less.”
NSWIC has also highlighted the fragile position many irrigators are currently in. The uncertainty engulfing this reform and unrelenting vilification of what are, after all, family-owned businesses, are adding to the distress of little to no water access in the worst drought on record, a drought that has not ended for many people like those in the Border Rivers.
“Irrigators are feeling distressed by their future prospects, this is not the time to play politics with a reform which already comes at a significant socioeconomic cost to these communities. We require a smooth and sensible transition. The major parties should focus on the reform and refrain from joining in the shameful pile-on vilifying these farmers.”
“We have grown men in tears on their farms, and at the same time see politicians in Sydney playing games with their livelihoods, it’s not ok, and it needs to be called out.”
NSWIC is aware of concerns around valley-based rules to implement this framework in Water Sharing Plans. If the regulations enabling the framework do not go through, then there is no longer a process to consider these other concerns through the Water Sharing Plans. We need an actual compliance framework in place first, and as an urgent priority, before the secondary step.
“You need a house before you can work out what furniture to put in it,” said Ms Miller
NSWIC has reviewed the positions of all major stakeholders on reducing, licensing and metering floodplain harvesting. All major stakeholders support this reform – the key architecture of which will soon be put before Parliament.
NSWIC asks that politics are put aside in the interests of achieving clear, transparent and accountable water management in NSW right now, which is in the interests of everyone.