Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Levy helps with floodplain fight

- Dear Editor, Yours etc. Sophie Baldwin Executive officer Southern Riverina Irrigators

Member support is integral for SRI to be successful protecting NSW Murray general security.

Back in February we asked our landholder­s to participat­e in a voluntary levy and thanks to you all, we generated around $230,000 (ex GST).

This money was critical in our ongoing floodplain harvesting (FPH) fight.

The voluntary levy has allowed us to engage the services of Bret Walker SC, who is considered one of Australia’s most formative minds on water.

His report in the up and coming NSW Upper House inquiry confirms SRI’s position — FPH has never been legal: it does not sit within the legal limits in the Water Act 2007 and the Basin Plan 2012 and if NSW increase volumes of take through water sharing plans, it is a direct contravent­ion of federal legislatio­n.

For the better part of 18 months, consultant­s Slattery and Johnston have been working on legality of floodplain harvesting around cap.

They have showed the distortion and manipulati­on by department­s as they attempt to license above cap and along the way uncovered an increase in storage in the north from 574GL in 1994 to 1395GL in 2020.

The MDBA (remember the government body supposedly working to improve and support the environmen­t) are on course to accredit increases to allow enormous volumes of water to be licensed for floodplain harvesting, making these licences compensabl­e if they are ever cancelled.

SRI members will be paying for FPH licensing twice; once via a reduction in allocation and second via taxes.

This is one of the reasons why NSW Murray general security sits on 30 per cent today.

SRI has been fighting for a return of water since the FPH review began in 2018.

The culminatio­n of our work and determinat­ion has resulted in the upper house FPH inquiry, which we are comfortabl­e will end the debate and see water flowing to the south again.

Advocacy doesn’t come cheap, especially when your opposition is government department­s with deep pockets and no skin in the game and as you are all well aware, SRI landholder­s don’t have time to wait.

This year NSW Murray general security sit on 30 per cent with full dams while in previous years, with the same allocatabl­e volume, we would be clapping our hands on 100 per cent.

Without access to water we are licensed and metered to receive, our businesses, our community and our environmen­t are directly threatened.

The class action is gathering momentum and will prove additional success for our region as we see some changing of the rules already — but not all and not quick enough.

There are many other issues affecting reliabilit­y of NSW Murray general security; increasing conveyance, Barmah-Millewa Borrow, Lower Lakes, carryover and Commonweal­th Environmen­tal Water Holder.

We have a long fight and at times it will be an expensive one, but your support is integral for our success and with continued co-operation and focus we will see water return to NSW Murray general security.

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