LETTER: State water powers could cut farm values

Amendments to water legis­lation passing through State Parlia­ment, which open up the NSW Government’s ability to suspend water use, are alarming. 

These powers currently allow the minister to temporarily suspend water-sharing plans on ­specific grounds such as a town water shortage or threat to public health and safety. 

However, the proposed amendments would allow those powers to be used for “environmental purposes” as well.

The inclusion of “environmental purposes” is far too broad and leaves too much scope for misuse.

Another concerning amendment removes crown liability if riparian landholders experience damage or loss as a result of the ­release of environmental water.

A farmer’s livelihood can be severely affected by the mismanagement of water and the government needs to be held to account for its decisions. 

A negotiation framework, if rigor­ous, is good, but it’s not enough – we need a commitment to compensation for damage caused through the release of water.

Overall it is highly disappointing that this Bill, which was supposed to be the important response to concerns about metering and measurement shared by us all, has now gone so far as to meddle with longstanding property rights.

Changing irrigators’ access to their water allocation generates considerable business uncertainty for farmers who rely on water-sharing plans. 

It should also be noted that in some areas, a significant amount of a farm’s value is derived from its water share. 

By weakening landholders’ water rights, the value attached to their overall property may too weaken.

Derek Schoen, 

NSW Farmers Association president

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