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Key Water Blog

National Irrigators’ Council Update : 22nd October 2019

CEO Comment 

NIC had a very interesting meeting during a very busy agriculturally focused week in Canberra last week.

Our AGM saw one new director elected, South Australian Murray Irrigators’ Caren Martin is the new South Australian representative on the board.  Caren is the Chair of South Australian Murray Irrigators the peak body representing all Murray irrigators in South Australia.  Caren and her family have an almond farm on the Murray and they have been leaders in adopting renewables for their operation.  Caren brings to the board decades of direct experience with water reform and the Basin Plan and will certainly be a valuable addition.  Congratulations and welcome Caren.

Three other directors terms ended and they were re-elected including Tim Napier from Border Rivers Food and Fibre; Gavin McMahon from South Australia’s Central Irrigation Trust; and Karen Hutchinson from Murrumbidgee Irrigation.

The Board then re-elected Gavin McMahon as Chair and Michael Murray as Treasurer.  Karen Hutchinson has been elected as Deputy Chair.

Thank you to our other ongoing board members for their work: Jenny McLeod, Bernie George, Toby Smith and Jeremy Morton.  And particular thank you to Dale Holliss for his ongoing board role and his work as Deputy Chair last year.

With so many things going on at the moment it was inevitable that our meeting was going to be pretty packed with the people who undertaking work directly relevant to our sector.

We were particularly pleased to have the Water Minister, the Hon David Littleproud, with us first thing in the morning and for the time he was able to take out of a busy sitting day to answer questions from members.

The Minister spoke about a number of critical issues and reiterated again the message I have included in my report to the meeting about the importance of delivering the 605GL of Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Measures.

We also had presentations from a number of people.  In some cases these included powerpoint slides.  If you are interested in getting a copy of any of the presentations email me
The speakers included:

  • Joe Davis and Peta Derham from the MDBA talking about deliverability, constraints and other issues;
  • Erica Kenna from the Federal Department of the Environment talking about the Energy Efficient Communities Program (no presentation for this one);
  • Gabrielle Ford and Bruce Mikkelsen from the ACCC outlining the process for the water markets inquiry and the topics highlighted in their issues paper released last week;
  • Andrew Kassebaum from the Independent Socio Economic review panel;
  • Matt Coulton from Bureau of Meterology outlining some of the new products they are developing to better assist prediction and data along with an outline of current and expected conditions.

This week I will be in Toowoomba at the Murray Darling Association conference, the MDA is the body representing all the local government’s in the Basin, NIC feels that they should be a vital part of all issues in the Basin, in particular reforms or changes that can have impacts on Basin communities.

I’m looking forward to talking to many of the representatives of Basin Communities at the conference.

Unfortunately, despite the many positives of last weeks activities the week ended on a sour note when the MDBA prematurely released a ‘report’ on satellite monitoring of flow event on the Namoi and Macquarie Rivers earlier this year.

NIC strongly supports effective and strict compliance and we certainly support the transparent use of satellite images as part of that.  The report listed coordinates of ‘dams’ that were alleged to have partially filled during the flow event.  It went on to say that in most cases there was no legal issue but that it had referred seven cases to the NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator.  To be fair it did not accuse anyone of wrong doing – however it was naïve, in my view, to think that in the current environment that would not be assumed by many people.

NIC put the view to the MDBA that this information and any conclusions should have been released after NRAR had considered it and determined whether there was any evidence of further action being required.  We also put the view that individual coordinates for dams should not be released.

As it happens our members have checked the dams mentioned in the report and we know that of the three mentioned as being referred to NRAR in the Macquarie, one is the Warren Racecourse (Crown land presumably – not a private dam), and the other two are on a regulated part of the river and at the time had access to general security water along with ground water and that, in fact, the change in levels in their dam was the result of a transfer from one dam to another for their orange orchard.

I noted when I looked at the maps that several other sites included dams in towns and even town sewage ponds.

NIC supports transparency from MDBA, including in compliance work.  But that doesn’t mean releasing half finished processes that cause unnecessary hurt for innocent people.

That’s one rant for the week.  Below, I have made a few personal observations on drought policy as well.

Perhaps both indicate the need for a holiday – I’ll miss the next fortnight’s update because I will be on holiday for a week or so from late next week.  Give Joy a call if you need anything!

Best wishes
Steve Whan


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