Misguided Drought of Bill record will only hurt Australia’s capacity to grow food and fibre
The Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA) is urging Members of the NSW Legislative Assembly to vote down the Water Management Amendment (Water Allocations-Drought Information) Bill 2020.
The Bill, which passed through the NSW Legislative Council, seeks to secure town water supplies during drought. However, the Bill seeks to apply a blanket policy change to water management in every valley in NSW, to address an issue that we understand is specific to one valley.
“The Bill significantly underestimates the complex nature of water policy and the unique characteristics of each valley,” said RGA President Rob Massina.
“If the Bill is passed in NSW Legislative Assembly, it will mean a further permanent reduction to the total water available for NSW Murray and Murrumbidgee general security water allocations, as well as a delay to the critical timing of allocation announcements.”
The RGA has been provided information that suggests annual general security water allocations will be permanently reduced by 18% - 25%. The NSW Irrigators’ Council, of whom the RGA is a member, has requested the NSW Department responsible for water management provide updated modelling of this impact. However this request has been refused.
“This is a significant undermining our growers’ property right in water. For the NSW economy, this would mean lost irrigated agricultural production worth hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more than a billion dollars” said Mr Massina.
The NSW Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys are the two largest valleys for irrigated agricultural production in NSW. The RGA understands the proposed legislative change will make no material difference to town water supplies in these valleys in another drought of record, but it will result in a significant and devastating reduction to water availability for irrigated agriculture every year.
Following the Millennium Drought, the NSW Government mitigated the risk to town water supplies in these two valleys by establishing generous drought accounts and reserves in storages, and implementing the Extreme Events Policy which is primarily focused on managing water “to secure critical human water needs”.
The RGA strongly
encourages the NSW Members of the Lower House to vote against this Bill, and to
ensure the real impacts of legislative change are fully understood before
considering future changes to water management in NSW.
The RGA understands
that our local Member for Murray, the Hon. Helen Dalton MP, plans to
vote against this Bill, and congratulates her for standing up for the right of
water holders in her electorate.
The RGA thanks the NSW Coalition Government for never having supported this Bill, which was introduced by the Hon Mick Veitch, Labor MLC.
“Our rice growers are already under pressure from recent water reform and drought. This Bill presents another major policy change risking the resilience and viability of their businesses, industry and communities,” Mr Massina said.
The RGA has written to all members of the NSW Legislative Assembly seeking that they vote down this Bill.
Media Contacts: Robert Massina, RGA President – 0448 999 288
Belinda Lambert, RGA Communications Manager - 0488 071 165