Lobby group, Speak Up, has called for an emergency allocation for NSW Murray food producers in the NSW Government’s drought package.
Speak Up Campaign deputy chair Lachlan Marshall said the $355million package announced last week was welcomed, but had failed to acknowledge the drastic situation for irrigators who continued to face zero water allocation.
He said water was being held for various needs and, as was seen last summer, huge quantities were available to send downstream to those who could afford to pay the exorbitant price of temporary water, or to keep South Australia’s Lower Lakes full for boating regattas.
‘‘In all of this, the desperate situation in the NSW Murray is being neglected,’’ Mr Marshall said.
‘‘Unfortunately, while a vast range of projects have received funding through the latest package, our region misses out again.’’
He said while relief from fixed charges and some rates was welcomed, providing water needed to be the top priority.
‘‘We have dairy farmers walking off in record numbers,’’ Mr Marshall said.
‘‘They are screaming out to the government to fix their issues around water, but in the immediate term nothing is happening.
‘‘In Deniliquin we have the biggest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere virtually closed — with all the job losses that entails — because the rice crop is barely over 50000 tonnes.
‘‘This is an emergency situation, yet we are not getting emergency attention from the government.’’
Mr Marshall said Speak Up supported the Federal Government’s water trading review, and hoped its proposed review into social and economic impacts of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was a genuine attempt to acknowledge the damage it had created and take positive steps to rectify it.
‘‘But these are all long-term issues. Right now, we need politicians to find an emergency solution to the current crisis,’’ Mr Marshall said.
‘‘This could involve the government purchasing water on the temporary market and making it available to food producers in the NSW Murray who are on zero allocation.
‘‘It could perhaps be making a parcel of environmental water available for food production, although we acknowledge the legislative difficulties that this poses.
‘‘Another option would be to borrow or acquire some water from the Snowy Hydro scheme, which has been done before to help overcome water shortages in our region.
‘‘But continuing to do nothing to overcome the zero allocation we are again facing is not an option.
Mr Marshall called on the NSW Government and the Federal Government to get their heads together and come up with a course of action.
‘‘We have relatively dry conditions predicted over winter and, at this stage, the likelihood of another season with zero allocation,’’ he said.
‘‘That will cripple some of our family farmers.
‘‘We need decisive action, and quickly, to stop this disaster from unfolding.’’