The RGA highlights the flaws in the Drought of Record Bill before the Parliamentary Inquiry

 

This week the RGA appeared before the NSW Upper House inquiry considering the Drought of Record Bill.

 

The RGA reiterated that the objective of the Drought of Record Bill is flawed and that the Bill could result in the locking up of significant volumes of water, estimated to be between 18 and 25% of effective allocation, for no good reason.

 

The stated purpose of the Bill is to secure town water supplies. However, town water supplies in the Murrumbidgee and NSW Murray are already adequately secured through a number of water policy decisions made since the Millennium drought.

 

If this Bill was introduced, the real impact would be to shift more water away from irrigation to high priority water needs, despite these high priority water needs already having sufficient supplies to carry them through the worst drought on record.

 

Rather than trying to maximise the outcomes we as a State can achieve with the limited water resource available to us, the Bill seeks to reduce overall access to water for all water users.

 

This Bill flies in the face of the principles set out in the 2004 National Water Initiative, and the many water reform instruments developed since, which all seek to maximise environmental, economic and social outcomes from water use.

 

This Bill also contradicts the NSW and Federal Governments current aims of stimulating the economy in order to recover from Covid-19. The agricultural sector will play a significant role in driving the economy forward. Further limiting irrigation production for no good reason is nonsensical considering this current economic context.

 

This proposed Bill seeks to apply a blanket policy change across all valleys in the State, without any detailed consideration of the real impacts of the policy changes at a valley level. Each valley in NSW is unique and policy changes should take into account the characteristics of, and rules regulating, each valley.

 

The NSW Government has now commenced the development of regional water strategies for each valley. Security and availability of water supply will be a key issue analysed through this process. To pre-empt the outcome of this piece of work with a blanket policy change not founded on any analysis at a valley-by-valley level is foolhardy.

 

The RGA therefore urges the Committee Members to recommend that the Bill not proceed further, and that future water management Bills be based upon detailed analysis of impacts, and formulated in close consultation with the many stakeholders impacted by water management in NSW

 

Ricegrowers' Association of Australia

 

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