Senator Perin Davey, Senator for NSW
Damian Drum MP, Member for Nicholls
Dr. Anne Webster, Member for Mallee
NSW Nationals Senator, Perin Davey, has announced her intention to draft and introduce a Private Senators Bill that will allow a win-win for the future of farmers and the environment.
Together with the Member for Nicholls, Damian Drum, and Member for Mallee, Anne Webster, Senator Davey has been working on a concept to establish drought scenarios at which point the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) must release half of the water held in that region onto the water market for consumptive use during severe drought.
“This in turn can provide an income to the CEWH that they can then use for environmental projects or to purchase allocation in a better season when it can be used for better impact,” Senator Davey said.
“This is what John Howard always envisaged when he announced his National Plan for Water Security in 2007.
“At that time he said water acquired by efficiency or purchase can provide ‘greater security for water users in dry years and provide substantially greater environmental flows in later years.’
“When John Howard said that, we were in the worst drought in history. But now we are in a worse one and it is clear that we have not achieved that intent.
“In the intervening 12 years, we have addressed many environmental issues and we have water flowing through to the lower lakes, but we also have a situation where our farmers are stranded in these extreme dry years.
“We have conditions for critical human needs, but we don’t have that missing step between business as usual and that crisis point and that is what we are trying to address,” Senator Davey said.
Mr Drum said the bill will address directly what farmers and the towns and communities across the Southern Basin have been calling for. “The Water Act in 2007 was written to adjust what was seen as an unsustainable take of water to deliver balance between agricultural production, critical human needs and positive environmental outcomes,” he said.
“Between 2007 and 2012 when the Basin Plan was implemented that very crucial part of the intent for water to be shared with agriculture in dry times was lost. Our Bill will bring that back.
“Had we known at the time the damage taking so much water out of productive agriculture would wreak on our communities, I don’t believe anyone would ever had agreed in the first place.”
Dr Webster said her farmers are concerned about the water that flows past their gates which they cannot access and question what it is achieving for the environment. “We must consider what is best for our communities. By legislating access to environmental water for consumption in dry times, we would achieve a better socio/economic balance in the basin which is desperately needed. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
“Importantly, what we are proposing is to help farmers across the Southern Basin make it through very difficult, dry times. It is not about NSW or Victoria or South Australia, it is about our communities.
“I believe our farmers have the support of their urban counterparts and I believe that they understand that there are times in our country that we need to prioritise food and fodder production,” she said
“Over the summer break, Damian, Anne and I will be taking our draft ideas to our constituents and stakeholders, to firm up the plan and introduce a bill in the New Year,” Senator Davey said.
A motion of intent to introduce the bill has been lodged and the bill will be lodged when Parliament returns next year.