A new draft Water Sharing Plan for the Bega valley will stymie environmental stewardship among farmers and undermine bushfire resilience.
“The Bega community has a proud history of successfully leading environmental stewardship initiatives in managing their waterways,” said NSWIC CEO, Claire Miller.
“This proud legacy continues with Bega Cheese Ltd leading an initiative for the region to become a circular-economy by 2030, a first of its kind in Australia.”
However, a new draft Water Sharing Plan recently on public exhibition will set back the communities’ vision and river health, while also putting at risk the region’s dairy industry.
“The Bega community has worked hard together to put options on the table for the Government to consider, but these have been ignored,” said Ms Miller.
“Farmers have supported Natural Resources Commission recommendations to allow farmers to take their water during high flow periods to use at a later time through improved on-farm storages, thereby reducing irrigation pressure when rivers are flowing low.”
The NSW Rural Fire Service also supports this recommendation, advising Bega Cheese Ltd that ‘water availability at scale in on-farm storage facilities will significantly improve our capability to manage large-scale incidents, for the safety of the community’.
“This is a great example of the whole community coming together, to find ways to work together for the common good on what could be a model for other regions to follow.”
“Yet the Government has put up a draft Water Sharing Plan that would make this pathway virtually impossible in practice. It’s a triumph of process over outcomes, and is so frustrating.”
The Bega community is calling for the NSW Department of Planning & Environment to come to the table and support the Bega community’s collective vision.
“The private sector is delivering so much to benefit this region already, and all we ask is for regulation to enable this to continue, to keep up and catch up with what we know is possible.”
“The Department’s approach of picking winners and losers plays badly in communities that appreciate their farmers’ long-standing and important role in looking after river environments, as well as supporting their communities economically.”