Water allocation secured

By Daniel Hughes

NSW Murray Valley irrigators have been granted their first general security water allocation in more than two years.

The three per cent allocation was announced on Friday morning, reportedly made possible because rainfall in late April resulted in an increased resource of 170,000 megalitres.

And while they maintain the allocation could have been much higher, local stakeholders say the offering is a ‘‘good start’’.

The last general security allocation made in the NSW Murray was in March 2018.

Pre-empting Friday’s announcement, the Ricegrowers Association of Australia released its own analysis of water availability on Thursday afternoon in the hope it would put pressure on the government to deliver an allocation.

From that analysis, president Rob Massina said the RGA conservatively predicted a two per cent allocation.

While the storage numbers point to what could have been a much higher amount — which some argue could have been between 10 and 20 per cent allocation —  Mr Massina said the RGA recognised this would be impeded by water sharing rules.

‘‘It all comes down to the framework,’’ he said.

‘‘We are looking to the government to be more transparent because we can see more water is being held in reserves this year without any explanation.

‘‘The RGA would like to see weekly, if not daily, updates on allocations to aid in planning for our farmers.’’

Murray Irrigation Limited chairman Phil Snowden said he too could recognise the impact of water sharing on the result announced Friday, and that more work is needed to make the process fairer for food and fibre producers.

‘‘Like most people, we’ve been watching the rainfall and the vision of the Darling River flowing again and have been waiting for some good news for our region,’’ Mr Snowden said.

‘‘Naturally, we’d have liked to have seen more than a three per cent allocation, however we understand that a large portion of the water will be held in dams to improve water security for next year.

‘‘I can appreciate the cautious approach taken by the regulators and decision makers, but I would like to see the rules around general security allocations changed to make them more equitable.

‘‘We’ve been working with, and will continue to work with, the relevant state and federal departments to try and achieve this.

‘‘While it’s a work in progress, we’re hopeful that our efforts will bring about change to benefit our region and its communities in the future.’’

Finley agronomist John Lacy said it is fantastic news for the region and farmers will have unbelievable relief for the upcoming summer crops.

He said the allocation does, for the first time in two years, give farmers the opportunity to plan ahead for the next financial year.

‘‘The water is too late to do anything for this water year but it can be carried forward into the next year, which will allow farmers to think about cutting some paddocks early to get in rice bays,’’ he said.

“This year looks wonderful with the predicted water coming, but in addition to get a water allocation  is what we've been waiting for.

“It will give farmers terrific hope and confidence for the rest of the year. Farmers can think about finishing off winter crops if need be.

“Farmers will be able to consider rice, corn and cotton which is so important, it is good having winter crops in, but summer crops are where farmers make most of their profit for the whole farm.”