Low allocations expected for start of season

By Alana Christensen

Irrigators are bracing for another tough year, with the initial announcements pointing to low allocations for the start of the new irrigation season on August 15.

NSW Murray irrigators have been sitting on zero general security allocation since July last year, prompting many — including NSW State Member for Murray Helen Dalton — to call for an emergency water allocation to be provided by August 1.

Mrs Dalton recently wrote to state and federal ministers urging them to provide an emergency water allocation to drought-stricken farmers in her electorate.

She said it was now ‘‘life or death’’ for the irrigation farmers that feed our nation.

‘‘Every week, a family farm is going bust due to lack of water allocation,’’ she said.

For Blighty dairy farmer and Speak Up deputy chair Lachlan Marshall, another year with zero allocation will force him to leave the dairy industry.

‘‘We need to have an emergency allocation by August 1 at the latest — that is when final farming decisions will be made, for dairy and cropping,’’ Mr Marshall said.

‘‘Without political intervention there is zero chance we will see any water by that trigger date.’’

In northern Victoria, the Murray, Goulburn and Loddon systems will start the 2019-20 season on two per cent, while the Campaspe system will start with a seasonal determination of 26 per cent.

Nathalia dairy farmer Phil Daniel said the two per cent allocation guaranteed he would be able to flush his toilet for next season.

‘‘I am not sure why they would announce such a low allocation,’’ Mr Daniel said.

‘‘To be honest our initial budgets are ugly and unless there is a dramatic change in the season and water moves in the right direction, I don’t know what will happen.

‘‘When you are a fourth generation farmer, with a love for show cows, dairying is hard to give up; but it’s almost just as hard to work your business around not relying on water.’’

Gunbower dairy farmer Stephen Brown said weather, feed prices and other challenges for the industry were ‘‘superfluous’’ to water prices.

‘‘It’s hard to see how we’ll all be here soon,’’ Mr Brown said.

‘‘It’s becoming impossible to farm.’’

He said the issue had been exacerbated as farmers were forced to use less water than they previously received as a result of changes to water rules more than a decade ago.

The 2019-20 water announcement has the Bullarook system starting with 19 per cent and the Broken system on zero per cent.

Northern Victoria resource manager Mark Bailey said more rain was needed to increase storage levels and the seasonal determinations.

The latest Bureau of Meteorology seasonal outlook indicates below-average rainfall across northern Victoria is more likely during the July to September period.