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Water for Fodder – a free-kick for South Australia

As details are finally released about the Australian Government’s Water for Fodder program, Murray Irrigation Chair, Phil Snowden, said it’s becoming clear that the needs of NSW Irrigators are being increasingly ignored.

“The Federal Government’s recent announcement of 100GL of ‘new’ water for irrigators was music to our ears. Sadly, as the fine print is being unveiled, we see it isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, and does no more than benefit South Australia,” Phil said.

“It’s entirely unreasonable that South Australia be allowed to implement this program through retail trades. They’re being given significant, unfair control and there are no checks that I can see, to ensure ‘gaming’ doesn’t take place.

“Our Barmah Choke trade rule is at serious risk, depending on who SA agrees to trade with. The initial public commitment was a deal between Canberra and SA to secure the water. We weren’t told this was a payout, with SA then on-selling any spare water it has to desperate farmers.

“I call on Canberra to urgently amend the Water for Fodder guidelines before the program starts. For the sake of our farmers, keep this water out of the market – don’t give SA total control,” Phil said.

Adding insult to injury was the recent decision by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to refuse any further public consultation on the state’s Water Resource Plans. These Plans are legally binding for 10 years and lock-in the Basin Plan obligations that NSW is stuck with.

“Communities were promised they would see final drafts of their Plans before they were sent to the MDBA. NSW has now backed-out of this commitment. It was our last remaining chance to ensure our entitlements were protected and it’s been stolen from us,” Phil said.

“This process is a mess and is causing unacceptable stress on communities already under pressure.

“The NSW Government must keep its commitment to all impacted communities that we’ll be able to review and approve our Plans before they’re finalised. There MUST be a consultation process if further revisions are made by the MDBA once they’re submitted.

“Our communities need certainty that our entitlements and their yields are protected. The process must be fixed.  Governments must stop holding critical funding to ransom and find a better way to work in partnership.

“Our shareholders and regional communities are sick of being a whipping post. We refuse to be impacted by poorly executed processes outside of our control.

“It’s imperative that we work together to sort this out,” Phil concluded.