Editorial by NSW Irrigators’ Council

Now celebrating its 30th year as the peak representative body for irrigators in the state, the NSW Irrigators Council is embarking on a new journey with a change in leadership. We look forward to introducing you to our new CEO,
Mark McKenzie when he takes the helm at NSW Irrigators Council shortly. You will no doubt be familiar with our previous CEO, Andrew Gregson. Andrew not only contributed a great deal to the organisation through some very tough times, recall the Murray Darling Basin negotiations for a start, but was the driving force behind the creation and support for this magazine.
Andrew completed his contract with the organisation at the end of January and has taken on a role as Head of Corporate Affairs for a multi-national organisation. Still based in Sydney, but with far more travel now involved in his position, we hope to still have the opportunity to see him on the odd occasion.
Having contributed many articles to the pages of Productive Water, he has not let us down in this issue with a major piece being written on his trip to Colorado and the gas operations that share land and water resources with irrigators and farmers in that State.
In addition, the magazine is filled with news and articles on electricity, water trading and a follow up piece on the ‘Asian century’. We hope you enjoy it.

Read the full Productive Water Journal from Autumn 2014 [HERE]

Editorial by Andrew Gregson

We’ve just concluded our first Conference. Held at Old Parliament House in Canberra, it attracted great numbers and some sensational international keynote speakers. The theme of the event was Perspectives on Irrigated Agriculture and was designed to prod people – in the words of Professor Tony Allan – to “think differently”.
Why “think differently”? Simple, really; a different perspective on a problem is a great way to find a solution that in hindsight might be obvious. It is very simple to be caught up in the day-today issues in which we find ourselves dealing. To occasionally take the time to step back, look from a different angle and to view the bigger picture can be most rewarding. It allows us to refocus, to see where it is that we’re trying to go and to fashion a path to get there.
The last session of the day was titled “What Have We Learned”. Its aim was to ensure that people captured something from the event; that they identified at least something in the day that was worth remembering and acting upon. I know I certainly did. In listening to the views of our two international keynote speakers – Professor Tony Allan from Kings College of London and Mike Wade, the Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition – I quickly realised that we’re not alone. Irrigators in Australia are facing many of the same issues that those in California and Europe are facing. We’re all dealing with it in subtly different ways, which is ideal; there is much for us to learn from others. What works in dealing with public perceptions in California might well work here. At very least, it’s worth a try. A big realisation for me, though, came from Professor Allan. Like all good realisations, it’s one that is perfectly obvious in hindsight. The demand for water is not driven by irrigators – it’s driven by consumers. We grow what consumers demand. It is the consumer, then, that must take at least part of the responsibility for the use of water in agriculture.

Read the full Productive Water Journal from Winter 2013 [HERE]

Editorial by Andrew Gregson

As I write, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan passes its last Parliamentary hurdle. Today is technically the last day that a disallowance motion could be put. The Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke, has marked the occasion by having a Member on his own side of the Parliament ask a question about it. Known as a “Dorothy Dixer”, these questions are designed to give the Government the opportunity to profess how wonderful they are. It’s pure theatrics and generally utterly irrelevant to the running of the country. Compounding the theatricality is Minister
Burke’s decision to nominate one activist for his role in bringing about the Plan. He even invited that activist to be present in the House for the question.
Henry Jones is a fisherman on  the lower Lakes. Apparently it’s important that he carry on the inter-generational fishing business in that part of the world and that his catch feed people. Of course, to do so sees enormous ramifications for other inter-generational businesses (irrigation farms) and the reduction of capacity to feed many, many more people.
But Canberra is like that. What is patently absurd to anyone viewing from elsewhere can seem entirely reasonable in the national capital. It is a strange and fascinating world up there. So we thought we’d embrace that world and
descend upon it in July for our first ever conference. The move is being well received with the Shadow Minister confirming his attendance and the Minister likely to. Representatives of media organisations are making plans to cover it in detail, Commonwealth Departments are sending representatives (being some of the first to register) and overseas delegates planning to attend.
Why? Simply put, the conference has attracted a lineup of international guest speakers to consider a long-range future; to get out of the day to day and to view irrigation in Australia from other perspectives. We’d be delighted to have you join us, to have your say and to assist in having Canberra see through our eyes! The details are inside.

Read the full Productive Water Journal from Autumn 2013 [HERE]

Editorial by Andrew Gregson

I’ve heard the word “done” a lot in the last few days in reference to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, albeit in a range of contexts. I’ve heard “we’ve been done”, I’ve heard “the Greenies got done” but perhaps most troubling of all I’ve heard “it’s done”. The good news is that we’ve ended up with a Plan drastically better than it might have been, thanks in no small parts to the efforts of community and irrigation leaders who give their time to NSWIC. As the article inside attests, the Plan is a long way from perfect, but a long way from what it might have been. By no means, though, is it “done”. The implementation period lies ahead, and it is in that period that danger lies. During the last four years, we invested a whole lot of resource into ensuring the Plan was a discussion point around the dinner tables of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. We took a rural issue and made it important in urban electorates. That, to a large extent, assisted in softening the impact of the thing. The danger now lies in those  same dinner tables thinking it is “done” whilst we get “done” in the implementations. We need to be on top of – and involved in – Environmental Watering Plans, Water Recovery Strategies, Environmental Works and Measures
programs and countless funding and charging decisions. Each and every one of those has the capacity to turn the Plan on its head and leave us with the sort of outcomes that we don’t want. Now is the time for detail, the time to be vigilant and the time to be well informed. We need to hear from you and you need to hear from us. Thanks for staying in touch. 
ake no mistake – water is scarce and there are many competing demands. Ensuring sufficient Productive Water is and will continue to be an ongoing and difficult task. It’s far from done…

Read the full Productive Water Journal from Summer 2013 [HERE]

Editorial by Andrew Gregson

We’re at the pointy end of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. As I write, furious negotiations continue between the States and the Commonwealth to arrive at a position that they can support. There’s no guarantee that it will
be reached, but Federal Minister Tony Burke is sufficiently confident as to have extended the timeframe in which the States can make comment.
Inside this issue, we look at one of the longest running and most vexed issues in NSW water infrastructure – Menindee Lakes. There can be little doubt that this system is an engineering feat in the first instance, but more clearly needs to be done to ensure their efficient operation. Evaporation in that part of NSW can run as high as two metres per year resulting in whopping losses of water when they’re full – as they are now. Irrigators across the State have an interest in seeing that system managed efficiently.
At the same time, focus on water recovery at Menindee brings into start contrast the absurdity of the entire Murray-Darling Basin Plan debate. As one irrigator put it to me recently, what’s the point of saving water from evaporating at Menindee only to send it off to evaporate in the lower Lakes of South Australia? I had the great pleasure not too long ago to attend the 100th birthday of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. Her Excellency,  Professor Marie Bashir, the Governor of New South Wales, spoke with such passion about the area in which she grew up that it was impossible not to be transported back to the time that our forebears carved such a magnificent
agricultural area from so little. Their forethought, effort and sacrifice created a food bowl that sustained Australia’s growth into the modern democracy that it is today.
As I drove through the area, appreciating it in a new light, I couldn’t help but marvel how far divorced Canberra is from this reality. What sort of mindset drives a policy maker to risk inflicting damage such as the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on the achievements our forebears made?

Read the full Productive Water Journal from Spring 2012 [HERE]

Editorial by Andrew Gregson

Welcome to the fourth edition of Productive Water, the Journal of the NSW Irrigators Council. We’ve been delighted at the reception this Journal has received from Water Access License Holders across the State. Your feedback has been greatly welcome – and continues to be. Don’t hesitate to be in touch with us. 
Inside this issue you’ll find a range of articles that, when seen together, reflect the extremely broad agenda that NSW Irrigators Council is faced with. It seems that not a day goes past without another issue falling onto our collective desks. Aside from the Basin Plan (which you’ll find further detail on inside), we’ve recently been advised that both the NSW Government and Opposition intend to separately look at Just Terms Compensation legislation in this State.
That’s obviously a big issue for irrigators as we continue to defend water as a property right. The Menindee Lakes, sitting between the Upper and Lower Darling and as the linchpin between the Northern and Southern Basin, have had their fair share of attention over the past few years. It was under the previous Federal Government
(under Prime Minister Rudd) that first set aside $400m to achieve efficiency savings. To date, nothing has been done to achieve that – but the NSW Office of Water has contributed an article in this edition explaining some of the options at the Lakes.
In our “View From Here” regular feature, we’ve published an academic view of the comparisons between California, Australia and Israel authored by Michael Gilmont from Kings College in London. I first met Michael a few years ago at World Water Week in Stockholm. He’s since visited a range of irrigators and regions in Australia with us and will likely be one of the global thought leaders over the next couple of decades, so his article is well worth a read.
NSW Farmers Association, a Member of NSW Irrigators Council, is at the forefront of the current debate over the impact on land and water resources of mining and coal seam gas development. That leadership culminated in a significant rally at Parliament House in Sydney not long ago. Brianna Casey from NSWFA has contributed an article which provides and excellent background on the issue.

Read the full Productive Water Journal from Winter 2012 [HERE]

Editorial by Andrew Gregson

We chose the name “Productive” for very good reason. Irrigators are accused on the odd occasion of “wasting” water. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every drop that we extract is for productive use. Do you like wine?
It’s highly likely part of what you’re drinking was from irrigation. Enjoyed your orange juice at breakfast this morning? Again, highly likely that it was irrigated (because that’s Australian juice you’re drinking, right?). Rice with your dinner? Irrigated. Popcorn with your movie? Irrigated. If any Australian thinks they don’t have an interest in irrigation, they should take off everything they’re wearing that’s made of cotton. Perhaps close the blinds first.
There’s no doubt that at some stage in the Basin Plan process – and in every other policy move around water use – there are good intentions at play. Somewhere along the line with the Basin Plan, though, things derailed
and politics became the driving force. Basin Plan politics plays out differently for different sectors – what you hear in Adelaide is entirely different to what you hear in Brisbane. What you hear in Canberra is somewhere between the effectiveness of the lobby groups and the polling of marginal seats.
NSW Irrigators Council has spent plenty of time in the last few years reminding the metropolitan centres that the Basin Plan has real effects on them. A job loss is a job loss no matter where it occurs. Closure of communities will be felt everywhere. If the price of fresh food is forced up with the removal of water, it’s
everyone’s hip pocket that will suffer. That’s because irrigators use water for productive means. That production, according to a report just released by the NSW Government, results in 3.55 jobs being created by each and every irrigator just in their operation. Each operator then directs 60% of their farm expenditure into the nearest community where the dollars are productive again.
The equation is simple – water used for irrigation is Productive Water.

Read the full Productive Water Journal from Autumn 2012 [HERE]

Editorial by Andrew Gregson

The big issue for irrigators in NSW this quarter is obviously the Basin Plan. This edition of Productive Water has been written prior to it being released (at least formally – there are plenty of leaks about). We did contemplate holding this edition until the release had occurred, but “mid-November” was the best information we could find. We asked “what year?”, but didn’t get an answer…
We have been delighted with the reception that our first edition received. Mailed directly into the hands of around 8,500 irrigators across the State, the Journal proved a talking point for several weeks.
Inside this second edition you’ll find some more detailed pieces examining critical issues for irrigators. Southern Riverina Irrigators Executive Officer – and subject matter expert – Louise Burge provides an analysis of the vexed question of the lower Lakes. Louise has dedicated many, many hours to understanding this complex question and we’re delighted to publicise her work.
The second feature from our Sharing the Knowledge program, written by program coordinator and NSWIC Policy Analyst Mark Moore, is also inside. Whilst you’re reading this, that program will be touring Queensland examining what irrigators in that State are doing and sharing tips, tricks and local knowledge in a series of free forums. In the last edition, we featured interviews with key Federal players Minister Burke and Senator Joyce. In this edition, we move to a State focus with an interview with NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson.
We’re also delighted to be able to bring some coverage to the excellent work undertaken by Austin Evans from Coleambally Irrigation. It has irked NSWIC for some time that environmental lobbyists continue to spruik that “90% of wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin” have gone. We knew it just didn’t ring true – so Austin got to work uncovering where it came from. The fellow to whom it is accredited disowned the figure when Austin was finally able to track it down. Even in the face of the glaring truth, though, environmental lobby groups continue to use it.
Finally, given the Draft Basin Plan, an analysis of its underlying legislation – which we think is the root cause of the problem – is inside.

Read the full Productive Water Journal from Summer 2011 [HERE]