Member update 01/12/2019

Current map -  sourced from the MDBA site

Irrigators and communities shut out of water sharing plans – again

State and federal authorities are planning to ram through NSW water sharing and resource plans by the end of the year, ignoring stakeholder pleas for further consultation.

Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia president Rob Massina said the situation was outrageous, given departmental delays in preparing draft plans had left little time for proper community engagement.

“Clearly, deadlines are more important than a genuine community partnership on water management,” Mr Massina said.

“This has been the modus operandi for state and federal decision-makers forcing through water reforms over the past decade. And they wonder why people are so angry.”

The 2020 water sharing plans determine the availability and security of water for growing food and fibre in NSW river valleys for the next decade.

The plans also inform Water Resource Plans to be submitted to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority by 31 December, explaining how NSW will meet the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s Sustainable Diversion Limits and other requirements.

Draft water sharing plans belatedly exhibited for public comment in recent months raised alarm that more water would be diverted to the environment, on top of entitlements already held under the Basin Plan, at the expense of allocations to water entitlement holders.

The RGA and other stakeholders wrote to NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey on 4 November requesting stakeholder and community meetings to review the water sharing and resource plans before their submission to the MDBA.

“This was a reasonable request, given the Department’s history of ignoring community feedback on past water sharing plans,” Mr Massina said. “Then last week the department advised us no meeting would take place, and we should just trust them that all will be well.

“This is unacceptable on so many fronts. It is a breach of process, much less community trust – the resource plans are required to have had community engagement and support under the Basin Plan.

“And it is yet another example of a Basin Plan driven by deadlines and water recovery targets, and to hell with the socioeconomic and water market impacts.

“The federal minister David Littleproud must intervene to extend the 31 December deadline. It is not the fault of our farmers and communities that departments have dragged their heels, yet we are the ones being punished if these plans are rammed through.”