A TURN­ING POINT

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - NEWS -

A di­rec­tive from NSW Water Min­is­ter Niall Blair to get clar­ity around the ex­tent of water losses in the Mur­ray sys­tem has been de­scribed as ‘‘a turn­ing point’’ for the ir­ri­ga­tion sec­tor.

It was in­sti­gated fol­low­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tions by Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Ltd.

MIL chair­man Phil Snow­den, in ac­knowl­edg­ing the pos­i­tive move, said yes­ter­day: ‘‘To Niall Blair’s con­sid­er­able credit he is the first min­is­ter to look be­yond pol­icy and delve into prac­ti­cal­ity’’.

‘‘He is for­mally recog­nis­ing that water has both a mon­e­tary and so­cial value and his in­ter­ven­tion is a turn­ing point for our sec­tor,’’ Mr Snow­den said.

At MIL’s re­cent an­nual meet­ing Mr Snow­den es­ti­mated there had been ‘‘an op­er­at­ing loss in ex­cess of 200,000 megs in the last three months’’ which was worth ‘‘about $80 mil­lion in to­day’s water mar­ket, never mind the re­gional value and hard­ship this waste is caus­ing’’.

In a let­ter to Mr Snow­den this week, Mr Blair said that fol­low­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion from MIL he had ‘‘re­quested the De­part­ment of In­dus­try – Water pro­vide me with all facts around losses in the River Mur­ray’’.

‘‘I have asked that this in­clude the num­bers of the losses, where th­ese rules are at­trib­uted to and how we can bet­ter at­tribute th­ese losses now and into the fu­ture.

‘‘Upon re­ceiv­ing this ur­gent ad­vice I will com­mence dis­cus­sions with other ju­ris­dic­tions on how th­ese losses can be bet­ter shared to re­flect the causes.

‘‘I un­der­stand the frus­tra­tions of your or­gan­i­sa­tion and your mem­bers and as I have said as re­cently as Au­gust when the agree­ment to use the Mul­wala Canal was an­nounced be­tween Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Lim­ited and WaterNSW, it is crit­i­cal that the sys­tem is run as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble.’’

Mr Snow­den said for al­most a year MIL had been en­cour­ag­ing gov­ern­ment to ap­ply the rigours of ir­ri­gated agriculture man­age­ment to the man­age­ment of op­er­a­tional and en­vi­ron­men­tal water.

‘‘Mr Blair has now pro­vided a very strong recog­ni­tion of that sim­ple but crit­i­cal ap­proach.

‘‘We en­tered into a canal agree­ment to get ef­fi­ciency into the river sys­tem . . . Mr Blair and the Fed­eral Min­is­ter (David Lit­tleproud) hailed the agree­ment at the time and this un­der­tak­ing is an ex­ten­sion of that ob­jec­tive.

‘‘Ev­ery me­gal­itre of water lost is a me­gal­itre of water de­nied ev­ery farmer who has in­vested in ir­ri­gated agriculture — the Min­is­ter has recog­nised this and should be con­grat­u­lated,’’ Mr Snow­den said.

Con­cern with water losses was an is­sue raised by Mr Snow­den at the re­cent MIL an­nual meet­ing.

At that meet­ing he told share­hold­ers there was ‘‘con­sid­er­able waste in the de­liv­ery of water in the river sys­tem’’ and that ‘‘the changed char­ac­ter­is­tics of water en­ti­tle­ments owned by the gov­ern­ment in how they are be­ing used and de­liv­ered is hav­ing a ma­te­rial im­pact on our al­lo­ca­tions’’.

He said MIL would ‘‘work with river op­er­a­tors and en­vi­ron­men­tal water hold­ers to max­imise the ef­fi­ciency of the en­tire Mur­ray sys­tem’’.

‘‘We want to lead by ex­am­ple in of­fer­ing so­lu­tions. We can­not ex­pect ef­fi­cien­cies in the sys­tem if we don’t help to iden­tify them where we can,’’ he said in his an­nual re­port.

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