Ricegrowers call for a ban on irrigation development below Choke

Ricegrowers join calls for restrictions below the Choke

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Ricegrowers Association President Jeremy Morton said demand for water below the Choke was leading to delivery losses that affected general security irrigators.

Ricegrowers Association President Jeremy Morton said demand for water below the Choke was leading to delivery losses that affected general security irrigators.

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Ricegrowers say delivery losses are affecting general security allocations.

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The Ricegrowers Association of Australia have called to restrict irrigation development below the Barham Choke due to delivery losses.

At their annual conference, RGA passed a motion for a moratorium on any new irrigation development below the Barham Choke, until such a time that the government can guarantee that there are no third party impacts to existing irrigators, communities and environments.

It follows the Victorian Water Minister, Lisa Neville, placing strict conditions on new Victorian irrigation extraction licences below the Choke.

As well as requests from the Almond Board of Australia for a moratorium on new water use licences while a "capacity review" is undertaken.

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Ricegrowers Association president, Jeremy Morton said an increase in irrigation development below the Choke was having a negative impact on third parties.

"The biggest impact is on water availability," Mr Morton said.

"We saw last year that the losses within the river system are getting higher and higher and every megalitre of water lost in delivery is a ML that can't be allocated to grow food.

"We're calling on the government to do something about it."

The motion was originally focused on permanent and greenfield plantings but some growers called for an amendment to any 'new irrigation development', below the choke.

Deniliquin grower, Noel Graham said he supported the amendment because he didn't think it was right for one group of irrigators to tell another group of irrigators what they can and can't do.

"We're all in the same industry and I don't think it's our job to do that," Mr Graham said.

"But it is our role to encourage government to address this situation under the Basin Plan because the Basin Plan Act says there will be no third party impacts.

"These developments downstream of the choke are having a third party impact on general security irrigators because any water lost from the system (through delivery) is reducing the general security allocation.

"It's not the fault of the nut growers that these impacts are happening, it's the fault of the Plan."

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Mr Morton said he didn't think anyone would want to go back to the days where governments told people what to grow, but the solely market based approach looked like it was failing.

"People are developing irrigation where there's issues around deliverability and the losses incurred by trying to get the water further down the system," Mr Morton said.

"Nobody wants government telling people what to do but you can't just ignore what is happening."

The motion was one of four motions passed at the conference, including a commitment to lobby government to acknowledge 'that the concept of 1ML of water at Hume equals 1ML at the lower lakes is flawed and must be addressed.'

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