Coastal water rules good first step

The state’s peak agricultural body says the state government’s new coastal water capture rules are an important first step toward long-term reform.

NSW Farmers Dairy Committee Chair Colin Thompson said the changes to Coastal Harvestable Rights, which came into effect on Friday, meant farmers could store 30 per cent of the rain falling on their properties, up from the previous 10 per cent. However, he pointed out there was still a long way to go in righting old wrongs on water.

“This is a positive step forward as it recognises that we have vastly different rainfall patterns across the state, but some farmers will miss out under these rules,” Mr Thompson said.

“There are real gains to be achieved in terms of increased productivity and economic activity if all farmers can benefit.

“We will continue to advocate for an expansion of these rules so all farmers, and in turn their communities and regions, can unlock their potential.”

The ability to construct a dam on a property to capture harvestable rights was introduced under the NSW Farm Dams Policy in 1999, which changed the rules from an unlimited number of farm dams on a property to a 10 per cent take statewide. While that number sounded good on paper, landholders in coastal catchments argued for larger harvestable rights due to higher rainfall patterns and vastly different topography to farms west of the Dividing Range, where the 10 per cent rights measurement originated.

Mr Thompson said while NSW Farmers policy was to secure a 40 per cent take of rainfall, he welcomed progress to unwind the ‘one size fits all’ rules that governed the allocation and use of water resources.

“While it won’t help all of our coastal farmers just yet – and water captured under the rules will be restricted to certain uses – we are looking forward to greater opportunities for agriculture in a sustainable and beneficial way,” Mr Thompson said.

“We definitely support further work to implement a stepped approach to increasing this water take for other industries once they’ve done that further analysis.”

Learn more about harvestable rights here:

https://water.dpie.nsw.gov.au/licensing-and-trade/basic-landholder-rights/harvestable-rights/coastal-draining-catchments/

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