NSW Farmers:  Matthews’ interim water report a first step

The interim report into alleged illegal water take in NSW has been well received as a first step towards Murray Darling Basin water management transparency.

NSW Farmers president Derek Schoen hoped Ken Matthews’ report would pave the way for better management of the basin.

“The overwhelming majority of farmers and irrigators do the right thing, however, the serious allegations first brought to the public’s attention in the ABC Four Corners episode Pumping must be properly investigated and Mr Matthews interim report has been a good start,” Mr Schoen said.

“The association has zero tolerance for illegal water take. It’s theft from all other water users, basin communities, taxpayers and the natural resource base, and it’s unacceptable.”

NSW Farmers wants an investigation into how the 2012 Barwon-Darling Water Sharing Plan was made.

“Much of the angst from all sides of the debate comes from the creation of this Water Sharing Plan, and whether it was done correctly,” Mr Schoen said.

There are five federal and NSW inquiries into irrigation compliance – including the Murray Darling Basin Authority, a Senate Committee, National Audit Office and the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Mr Matthews raised “serious concerns” about DPI Water’s performance in compliance, enforcement and transparency and called for an “assertive” roll out of a range of compliance techniques, including remote sensing of crop growth and water holdings; back to base and remote meter reading and telemetry and; targeted covert operations. The National Irrigators Council “broadly endorsed” Mr Matthews recommendations.

“Water-users in NSW already fund compliance and we want the money spent effectively and efficiently. It does not appear to have been the case,” chief executive Steve Whan told Fairfax Media.

“It needs to be clear that the overwhelming number Murray Darling basin irrigators already use modern meters to measure the water they extract.”