Deniliquin Pastoral Times

MIL must lead allocation review

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An angry farmer reaction has been received to a NSW Government announceme­nt that NSW Murray food and fibre producers may only get 30 per cent of their allocation entitlemen­t this year.

This is despite dams being at capacity, fear of flooding, and 45 gates at the Murray mouth being open, allowing fresh water to pour into the ocean.

Speak Up Campaign chair Lachlan Marshall said the announceme­nt was the latest ‘‘kick in the guts’’ for our farmers, who now have to battle the bureaucrac­y as well as the elements.

‘‘It’s tough enough when we have to battle against floods, droughts, lockdowns and other challenges that farmers accept have become a part of our operations. But when you add a city-based bureaucrac­y that lacks genuine transparen­cy, that is going too far,’’ Mr Marshall said.

Mr Marshall is a candidate for the upcoming Murray Irrigation Ltd election and says the 30 per cent announceme­nt is a typical example why a change of approach is imperative.

‘‘We have to start developing stronger advocacy strategies to protect our farms, families, employees and communitie­s,’’ Mr Marshall said.

‘‘How can you possibly have flooding dams — which were built so we could grow food and fibre for the nation and the world — yet our farmers who are among the most efficient on the planet get less than a third of their allocation?

‘‘If that doesn’t tell us that change is needed, I don’t know what does.’’

Mr Marshall said our community has to lead an overhaul of how NSW manages water allocation­s, in particular carryover water. For this to occur, he says we need strong leadership at MIL.

‘‘In this week’s announceme­nt we were told Murray general security licence holders have to repay borrowed environmen­tal water ear-marked for the Barmah-Millewa forest. This is 237 gigalitres before more water can be added to the food production bucket.

‘‘But how much water is already stored for the environmen­t?

‘‘The government announceme­nt also highlighte­d that there are 720 gigalitres of carryover, which is 24 per cent of Hume Dam.

‘‘Who owns it? How much is environmen­tal water and how much is being held by investors, waiting for farmers to get desperate so they can cash in?

‘‘The department says there is only a 50 per cent chance of our allocation­s getting to 60 per cent by February.

‘‘Is it any wonder farmers are getting angry when we see water pouring down the river and out to sea, investors making a killing at our expense and the environmen­t being flooded ... yet we’re told we will continue to have limited access to the water?

‘‘But as tough as the battle seems to be, we cannot give up. We have to develop effective strategies, led by MIL in collaborat­ion with Landholder Associatio­ns, to convince government­s that with more effective management we can have adequate water for both food production and the environmen­t.’’

Lachlan Marshall is standing on a joint ticket in the MIL election with sitting director Waander Van Beek.

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