The Minns Labor Government has been slammed over its decision to backflip on coastal harvestable water rights.
Last year The Nationals in government increased Coastal Harvestable Rights to allow farmers to store 30 per cent of the rain that falls on their properties – up from the previous 10 per cent.
But Water Minister Rose Jackson has this week acted to revert the rule to 10 per cent.
Shadow Minister for the North Coast Gurmesh Singh said the move to slash coastal harvestable rights will have an enormous impact, by leaving all farmers less resilient.
“This short-sighted decision by the NSW Government is completely reckless and couldn’t come at a worse time for producers and landholders as we head into another drought,” Mr Singh said.
“The Nationals listened to coastal farmers while we were in government and made the change to increase the limit to account for the higher rainfall they get compared to other parts of the state, and allow them to use it to prepare for dry periods.
“Overturning this change will leave coastal communities without the adequate water they need to manage their cattle and grow food.
“It will also take away the vital additional water source that property owners rely on to fight fires in the hotter months, which is extremely concerning off the back of El Nino being declared.”
NSW Farmers Dairy Committee chair Phil Ryan said Labor’s decision was a “kick in the guts.”
“This has absolutely nothing to do with the drying conditions we’re seeing and everything to do with appeasing inner-city environmentalists who have no idea where their food comes from,” Mr Ryan said.
“The dairy industry in NSW is already facing price pressure, a dry season ahead and cheap imports from New Zealand, and now the Water Minister is making it harder to be a dairy farmer.
“Short-sighted decisions like this, made without asking farmers what the practical impacts might be, put enormous pressure on coastal agriculture and erode trust in government.”
NSW Irrigators’ Council CEO Claire Miller said the short-sighted decision had been made without consultation, leaving farmers less resilient to drought and communities without additional water sources to fight fires.
“The government has blindsided farmers without even waiting for its own catchment-by-catchment modelling to be completed which would have allowed them to make an informed decision,” Ms Miller said.
“The previous 30 per cent harvestable right meant farmers could store more water during wet periods, to help them keep growing food and watering livestock during droughts.