Concern at new water sharing rules

CHANGES to age-old water sharing rules for farmers and other irrigators will be presented at Kyogle and Lismore this week.

But the complexity of the draft water sharing plan, as proposed by NSW Water, has drawn concern from the Richmond and Wilsons Combined Water User’s Association.

Chairman of the association, Chris Magner, said the 80-page document, and the 48-page background document along with 350 pages in the new Water Act, meant many irrigators were not going to be fully aware of the government’s planned action.

“We need bums on seats at these information sessions,” he said.

Mr Magner, a Tatham farmer, said association eyebrows were raised when NSW Water announced that individuals would have to book a 15 minute time slot in order to ask questions and raise concerns, after each two hour information session.

Many changes are imminent if the draft plan goes ahead.

For starters, most pumping licences will cease sooner during drought conditions, in a bid to ease downstream impact on threatened species and town water supplies.

NSW Water said planned population growth for the Northern Rivers meant sensible water management was necessary.

But Mr Magner said it appeared the draft plan put agriculture last.

Changes to terminology, such as altering mega litres to ‘units’ as described on licence permits, could mean irrigators would be faced with fewer water rights without any change to their agreement.

For others, new restrictions on creeks could mean farmers would be forced to pay for water they used to get for free.

Shannonbrook Creek, which runs into the Richmond at Tatham is one example.

Cane farmers used to irrigating from their own drains would be faced with water restrictions under the new plan.

And irrigators using the Richmond downstream of the tidal influence could be faced with restrictions if inflow stream levels drop to a certain level.

Yet Mr Magner said the river as defined by its tidal influence was affected by inflow from groundwater and coastal rainfall, not just inflow from upstream.

“We want restrictions based on science,” he said.

The information sessions will be held at Kyogle tomorrow at the Kyogle Memorial Hall from 10am-noon, and in Lismore at the Worker’s Club from 10am-noon.

This is the final opportunity to voice questions or concern about the planned changes.

Some written submissions will be accepted until January 15, the last day of public exhibition.

For more information go to the website at

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