After a year of disruption, the NSW Farmers Executive Council were able to meet in-person…
NSW water review strikes fear in farmers
The review will be run by the Department of Planning and Environment in order to ascertain how water is being extracted and used by farmers. They will be checking stock and domestic water rights to decide whether changes to regulation are necessary.
Richard Bootle, President of the NSW Water Taskforce, warns that changing the basic rights of water usage for landholders could be dangerous.
“While urban citizens have water delivered to their kitchens, in the country the basic human right to supply quality water is now being examined.
“Since this important right was introduced, farming has evolved in its needs, but the basic right to an adequate supply of water for normal operations must continue.
“This right is not about irrigation or broad scale production, but about ensuring country people can be secure in their remote locations without more government red tape to justify their daily lives.
“There are many challenges to living in regional NSW, with poorer facilities of health care, transport options and education options, however one challenge should not be governments taking away the security of allowing farmers access to adequate water,” Mr Bootle said.
Results not yet evident
Under the Water Management Act, 2000 (section 52), farmers are allowed to take water for domestic purposes and stock watering without the need for a water access licence or a water use approval. These rules apply to all individuals living on a plot of land with a river, lake or estuary, or overlying an aquifer.
In an announcement from August 2023, NSW Government Executive Director of Strategy and Policy, Kaia Hodge, explained the reasons behind this review.
“Understanding how people use their basic water rights for domestic and stock purposes helps us to effectively manage water across NSW. This can have flow on benefits such as boosting drought resilience and creating healthier river systems,” she says.
“We want to hear about how landholders are using their domestic and stock rights and if they, or other people, have any concerns around the current approach to regulation and management.”
The review is being undertaken through a survey which closed on November 21. Hundreds of farmers completed the online form to share their thoughts on the current water rights, but the results and repercussions won’t be evident for a while longer.
Farmers up in arms
The new water review has many farmers worried about possible limitations on their land rights
NSW Farmers has written to the Department to stress that the current legislation is sufficient, and to ask that they uphold the right for farmers to utilise the water on their properties.
Many are also concerned that excess metering and restrictions could impact production on farming land, causing producers unnecessary stress as they are forced to adapt their practices or work towards a licence.