Min­is­ter’s in­quiry

Blair acts on al­lo­ca­tion dis­par­ity

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - NEWS - By ZOE MC­MAUGH

NSW Min­is­ter for Pri­mary In­dus­tries Niall Blair says he’s al­ready launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the dis­par­ity in gen­eral se­cu­rity ir­ri­ga­tion al­lo­ca­tions and NSW wa­ter stor­ages.

It was sparked by his sur­prise at last week hear­ing Mur­ray Val­ley ir­ri­ga­tors were only given a one per cent gen­eral se­cu­rity al­lo­ca­tion in­crease — to 29 per cent.

It is de­spite the Dart­mouth and Hume dams both hold­ing more than 80 per cent of their ca­pac­ity.

The al­lo­ca­tion an­nounce­ment co­in­cided with the min­is­ter’s visit to De­niliquin, along­side Pre­mier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian.

Speak­ing with the PAS­TORAL TIMES, Mr Blair said he acted as soon as he heard the news.

‘‘I al­ready have my of­fice look­ing into the is­sue, and I be­lieve it is an is­sue to do with car­ry­over,’’ he said.

‘‘I un­der­stand that farm­ers are fac­ing a small win­dow in which they can plant rice.

‘‘The (al­lo­ca­tion) formula is set on a risk ad­verse ap­proach be­cause of past con­cerns — th­ese are is­sues I am well and truly across.

‘‘It is worth not­ing that Hume is op­er­ated by the Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity, so we need to work with them also.’’

Ir­ri­ga­tors and food pro­duc­ers widely be­lieve al­lo­ca­tions are be­ing im­pacted by car­ry­over wa­ter tak­ing up ‘air space’ in the dams. It in­cludes wa­ter be­ing held by ir­ri­ga­tors and the Com­mon­wealth En­vi­ron­men­tal Wa­ter Holder.

West Ber­riquin Ir­ri­ga­tors chair and Speak Up spokesper­son Shel­ley Scoullar said it un­for­tu­nately leads to ‘‘dis­ap­point­ing’’ al­lo­ca­tions for ded­i­cated grow­ers.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously there are rules around how al­lo­ca­tion can be made, but what we’re con­vinced of is the wa­ter mar­ket is dis­tort­ing avail­abil­ity and plac­ing pres­sure of farm­ers and sys­tems,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

‘‘With wa­ter at the price it is (cur­rently sell­ing be­tween $130 and $250 ac­cord­ing to Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion) peo­ple are won­der­ing whether to use it or sell it.

‘‘What we want to see is more wa­ter on farms — we have an ap­petite to see it used pro­duc­tively, creat­ing jobs and sup­port­ing the lo­cal econ­omy.

‘‘I am pleased to hear the min­is­ter is alarmed enough with last week’s an­nounce­ment that he is will­ing to in­ves­ti­gate.’’

The NSW De­part­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries Wa­ter said although dry, show­ers and ‘‘bet­ter than ex­pected trib­u­tary in­flow re­ces­sions’’ in Septem­ber al­lowed for the small in­crease.

‘‘Car­ry­over in ac­counts has been re­vised up­ward by 40 gi­gal­itres to 730 gi­gal­itres, an av­er­age of 44 per cent of gen­eral se­cu­rity en­ti­tle­ment.

‘‘In­cor­rect sys­tem deb­it­ing of sup­ple­men­tary us­age from some gen­eral se­cu­rity ac­counts was found, which meant that th­ese ac­count bal­ances were too low and car­ry­over was un­der­es­ti­mated.

‘‘With the cor­rec­tion it means that over­all gen­eral se­cu­rity wa­ter avail­abil­ity is 73 per cent of en­ti­tle­ment in the val­ley.’’

The next NSW DPI Wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion an­nounce­ment is due on Oc­to­ber 16.

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