Water Sharing Win, But Environment Still on Top


The RGA is cautiously pleased to finally see some movement from government on our Water Sharing Plan concerns. 

“We have been working with the NSW Irrigators’ Council and local water user groups for six months now, to seek changes to the draft Plans ahead of accreditation” said RGA President Rob Massina.

On the day these Plans were due to be submitted the NSW Department of Industry (DEPI) Water released their ‘Community Consultation – What we heard’ report responding to many of our outstanding concerns.

The RGA was particularly concerned that the objectives, strategies and performance indicators in the Plans were too heavily weighted to the environment and did not include meaningful measures of entitlement reliability, and that no rule changes had been included to address systemic underuse in our two-valleys, which is significantly depleting our regions ability to grow rice. Thankfully the report commits the NSW Government to doing more work to address these key concerns.

Nevertheless, actions speak louder than words, and while we are cautiously optimistic that this is a step in the right direction, it is critical that the NSW government deliver this next round of consultation in a more meaningful manner.

“Despite the above wins, we are still particularly disappointed that the NSW Government has not taken this opportunity to review the Planned Environmental Water rules” said Mr Massina.

We have long called for improvements to the Murrumbidgee Transparency and Translucency flow rules and the payback trigger for the Murray Barmah Millewa Allowance.

“We believe these rules can be modified to achieve win-win outcomes for both the environment and irrigators”.

Just today however, the NSW Government released a report stating that changes to the Barmah Millewa Allowance cannot be considered due to the Basin Plan’s requirement that there be no decrease to the volume or effectiveness of planned environmental water. This is despite the NSW Government previously being scathing of the Murray Darling Basin Authorities interpretation of Planned Environmental Water in its 30 June report.

“For the last two decades the irrigation sector has borne the brunt of water reform and irrigators have continuously had to find ways to achieve more with less water.”

The recent Interim Inspector General’s report clearly demonstrates that the Southern Connected Basin is experiencing significantly less inflows then previously. If this trend continues then it is critical that we consider how we ‘do more with less’ with all water parcels, not just productive water.

“The current interpretation of the Basin Plan rule that there be ‘no net reduction’ to Planned Environmental Water is nonsensical. It ignores the fact these rules can be improved by allowing environmental water to be applied in a more effective manner.”

“The Murray Darling Basin Authority should take a much more pragmatic approach to interpreting this rule. Net impact should be measured by the outcomes achieved, not the volume of water used.”

“Until this matter is resolved the Water Sharing Plans will continue to give primacy to the environment at the expense of our irrigators.”