Catchments need water reform

Coastal catchments need water reform

Opinion
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NSW Farmers has an opportunity to shape water policy reform with the NSW Government's coastal harvestable rights review.

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NSW Farmers has an opportunity to shape water policy reform with the NSW Government's coastal harvestable rights review.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment-Water (DPIE) is reviewing a proposal to increase the volume of water landholders in coastal draining catchments can capture in farm dams as a basic right, without the need for a licence or approval.

Agricultural production in coastal regions is constrained by increasing competition for water, limitations on accessing water through trade or other means, and the existing generic harvestable rights limit.

There's considerable logic that a higher limit to harvestable rights should apply to farmers in coastal areas that receive higher rainfall. NSW Farmers supports an increase to at least 40 percent harvestable rights in high rainfall coastal catchments.

The investigation into current levels and to what levels this vital water supply should rise to must be based on the social and economic benefits of increasing production as well as environmental considerations.

This issue requires a methodical and fundamental rethink on rules and polices that apply to coastal areas, and presents a significant opportunity to work with coastal producers to build local businesses that benefit from water supply rather than letting it go to waste.

Modelling studies from the DPIE's review show that uniformly increasingly the harvestable rights limits is likely to have varying effects in different catchments. Some areas would see small effects, while others would see larger results.

A lower increase in harvestable rights may be more suitable for lower rainfall coastal catchments.

NSW Farmers supports more modelling and analysis of appropriate potential increases in harvestable rights on an individual coastal catchment scale, as well as extensive on-ground consultation.

The DPIE's consultation period on the review will be open until Monday, 5 April 2021.

The discussion paper and other relevant material can be accessed via the DPIE's website.

  • Xavier Martin, chair, NSW Farmers Water Taskforce

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