NSW Farmers: Northern Basin water recovery 'caused widespread devastation of regional communities'

DUE DILIGENCE: National Farmers’ Federation vice-president and water taskforce chair Les Gordon said important issues around irrigation water access needed to be addressed in the government's feasibility study.
DUE DILIGENCE: National Farmers’ Federation vice-president and water taskforce chair Les Gordon said important issues around irrigation water access needed to be addressed in the government's feasibility study.

NSW Farmers says water recovery in the Northern Basin must stop, and has urged the nation’s water ministers to consider the hardship already seen in regional NSW as a result of Northern Basin recovery.

Association president Derek Schoen said ahead of Friday’s Murray Darling Basin Briefing Ministerial Councilit was time to discuss non-flow eco-strategies.

“Water recovery in NSW must stop,” Mr Schoen said.

“The 278 gigalitres of water already recovered from agricultural production in the Northern Basin has caused widespread devastation of regional communities.”

“Southern Basin targets must consider the mounting evidence about the social and economic impacts of taking water out of production.”    

Mr Schoen said adding water to rivers would not necessarily improve their health. “Government needs to focus on complimentary, non-flow measures that respond to the needs of the Basin's ecosystems, such as carp control and addressing cold water pollution.”

Meanwhile the National Farmers Federation has urged caution around impacts for irrigated water supply following the government’s announcement of a $2 billion expansion of the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme 

NFF vice-president and water taskforce chair Les Gordon said from an irrigation perspective, the plan raised several questions that needed to be addressed.

He said there must be “no detrimental change” to the timing of water releases to irrigated farming businesses and the overall allocation and price of water.

“We’re keen to ensure that whoever is doing the feasibility study understands the details we’re interested in around price, volume and reliability,” he said.

Mr Gordon said a lot of the water for irrigated farm production in the Murrumbidgee and Murray valleys came from the Snowy scheme and their interests needed protecting.

“The major issues they’re worried about in those valleys are a change to the timing of water releases, a change to the volumes and change to the prices,” he said.

“The Snowy underpins a lot of what they do ... it’s incredibly important.

Mr Gordon said for farmers in general and especially those in the irrigation sector, energy prices had been going up “significantly” particularly those using pump systems.

“If you really want to cruel investment into irrigated agriculture particularly, and business in general, making the power supply terribly expensive and terribly unreliable would be the best way to do it,” he said.