SRI backs water harvesting stance

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

The NSW Government’s strategy to manage irrigators’ use of floodwaters has been slammed in a joint submission supported by Southern Riverina Irrigators.

It is supported by researchers, irrigators, graziers and a Darling River community group.

SRI spokesman Darcy Hare said it was ‘‘aghast at the draft strategy’’.

‘‘In the Southern Riverina every drop of water is measured with up to date technology and our members are committed to irrigation that is transparent, accountable and sustainable.

‘‘The contrast with this proposal could not be more stark. The floodplain harvesting strategy needs a major rewrite to protect the wider reputation of the irrigation industry.’’

The diverse groups called on the NSW Government to withdraw its draft strategy as it fails to address the problem of massive volumes of water being diverted into private storages.

Senior water researcher at The Australia Institute Maryanne Slattery said floodplain harvesting in northern NSW has huge environmental and economic impacts across the Basin.

‘‘This practice contributed to the Darling River fish kills that have shocked the country, but it also has costs for irrigators and graziers in other parts of the Basin, Indigenous and other communities.

‘‘Despite the 13 billion taxpayer dollars put towards the Basin Plan, the NSW Government strategy for monitoring huge volumes of water is for self-reporting by irrigators using ‘gauge boards’ which are little more than glorified rulers or dipsticks.

‘‘This is trying to regulate 21st century agribusiness with medieval technology.

‘‘The strategy appears inconsistent with the Federal Water Act, the NSW Water Management Act, Basin Compliance Compact and the aims of the Natural Resource Access Regulator.

‘‘Unless NSW goes back to the drawing board, this could end up as a lawyers’ picnic,’’ Ms Slattery said.

Darling River Action Group member Mark Hutton added the Darling River and Menindee Lakes ‘‘need more flows to get back to a state that fish can live in’’.

‘‘Both (the Darling River and Menindee Lakes) need more flows so our communities can rebuild.

‘‘We are now famous for a river of dead fish and this strategy does nothing to help our situation,’’ he said.