Draft Gwydir Alluvium Water Resource Plan

The NSW Government has placed the Gwydir Alluvium Water Resource Plan (WRP) on public exhibition until Friday 14 December 2018 and is inviting feedback now.

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Have your say

The purpose of this draft plan

The purpose of the Gwydir Alluvium WRP is to set out how NSW will meet its obligations under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan 2012 in the Gwydir Alluvium Water Resource Plan Area (WRPA). A WRP must comply with the requirements of Chapter 10 of the Basin Plan 2012 for it to be accredited under Division 2 of Part 2 of the Water Act 2007.

Areas and water sources covered by the plan

The Gwydir Alluvium WRP covers groundwater within the main alluvial deposits associated with the Gwydir River from approximately 20 kilometres downstream of Copeton Dam, continuing north-west through Bingara to Biniguy through to approximately 45 kilometres west of Moree.

The Gwydir catchment covers approximately 26,600 square kilometres and represents approximately 2.4% of the Murray–Darling Basin.

This plan applies to all groundwater resources in the following groundwater sustainable diversion limit resource units (SDL resource units) within the Gwydir WRPA:

  • Lower Gwydir alluvium (GS24)
  • Upper Gwydir alluvium (GS43)

Attend a public information session

The NSW Department of Industry invites you to find out more about the WRP, its schedules and the submission process.

The following sessions are scheduled for the public exhibition of the WRP.

Register now

To register now please email gwydir.gw.wrp@dpi.nsw.gov.au and let us know which session you’ll attend.

Moree

Tuesday 4 December
10 am–1 pm
Moree Services Club,
Albert St, Moree

Bingara

Tuesday 4 December
3 pm–5 pm
Bingara Returned Servicemen’s Club,
46 Finch St, Bingara

Make a submission

You are invited to make a submission on the draft WRP through our online feedback form until Friday 14 December 2018. All submissions will be considered when finalising the plan.

Submissions close at 5 pm on Friday 14 December 2018.

Contact

For more information email gwydir.gw.wrp@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Fact sheets

You can find general fact sheets regarding water sharing plans at General resources

Source: NSW Department of Industry 2018-12

Smart farms grow the future in Australia

There’s no surer sign that the search for innovation in our country is alive and well than the continued popularity of field days, among locals and city visitors alike.

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People turn up to these fantastic events across rural Australia because they’re curious about finding better ways of doing things and keen to keep pace with rest of the farming community.

In a complete vote of confidence in the sector’s capacity to innovate, the National Farmers Federation this year announced a farm gate value production target of $100 billion over the next decade.

The 2030 Roadmap demonstrates the real confidence in a community that is among the most adaptable and forward thinking of Australia’s industry sectors.

Applying continuous innovation to the way farms are run has already led to an industry worth about $60 billion a year.

Machinery has become smarter, with drones to monitor crops and fences, computers to accurately determine irrigation demand, infra-red equipment that distinguishes pest plants, and precision cropping enabled by satellite-linked global positioning.

There are more efficient fertilisers and herbicides, more selective pesticides and more drought tolerant and higher yielding plant varieties. Farm business is supported by more sophisticated transport options, supply chains and marketing advice.

By adopting these innovations, farmers have improved their production, found new markets and protected their future.

These more efficient ways of working have of course had an impact on local communities—effecting skill requirements, employment patterns and regional economies.

Another area that can drive profitability into farm businesses is the adoption of water efficiencies. As drought puts pressure on the Basin’s finite water resources, now more than ever, many farmers are considering the opportunities and risks relating to water.

Just as river managers need to run the river efficiently to meet multiple demands, the strong uptake of opportunities funded under the Basin Plan in the past 10 years has demonstrated the desire among many irrigators to prepare for the future by modernising their water infrastructure.

Individual farmers have been motivated by a range of reasons to be more water efficient: to support them through drought, to improve their crop production, to free-up water for sale or to prepare for the forecast impacts of climate change—a future with less water.

While some of the water they have saved has improved the river’s health—itself a community asset—the remainder has added to farm productivity.

These publicly supported innovations have been available alongside the more efficient tractor, the laser technology, mechanised storage facilities and so on. Water efficiency should continue to be one of the areas for investment that farmers consider when looking to improve their business.

Under discussion in communities at the moment are opportunities for irrigation networks, industry, communities and farmers to modernise through water efficiency projects to increase by 450 gigalitres the amount of water available for a healthy river environment.

Efficiency projects to deliver water savings for the environment also include urban, industrial, off-farm and metering initiatives.

This requirement of the Basin Plan is the other side of the coin that has reduced by 605 gigalitres the amount of water that irrigators need to return to the river, thanks to environmental efficiencies agreed by state governments.

Innovations that have arisen under the Basin Plan are all about ensuring the river system as a whole is fit and healthy to support sustainable industries, communities and the environment for future generations.

I encourage all people in the Basin to seriously look at water efficiency opportunities and consider ways those innovations could work for them.

Flexibility and adaptability are the strength of the farming community.

I applaud the forward thinking that continues to underpin the optimism and collective inventiveness that will help this sector become a $100 billion sector by 2030.

The principle behind achieving that goal today remains the same as ever: helping each other to find better ways of doing things.

Source: Murray Darling Basin Authority 2018-11

New metering rules for NSW water users

The NSW Government has announced the release of a robust new metering framework to measure and meter non-urban water take in NSW, which commenced in December.

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The new metering requirements apply to licensed water take from across the State. Under the new framework, where water take can be measured, and other thresholds are met, an accurate, tamper-proof meter must be installed.

Emma Solomon, Group Director Water Renewal Taskforce with the NSW Department of Industry – Water said the framework is a commitment under the NSW Government’s Water Reform Action Plan and testament to the government’s commitment to transparency in best-practice water management.

“We are reforming water management in NSW. This framework is a significant step forward for NSW as leaders in water management and regulation.

“Metering ensures sustainable, equitable and efficient allocation of water for communities, local economies and for the environment. Under the new rules, if works are above the thresholds or in “at risk” groundwater sources then they must be metered,” she said. Additionally, telemetry will be mandatory for all surface water works 200 mm or larger.

From 1 April 2019, all new and replacement meters must be pattern-approved and installed by a qualified person. They will also be required to have tamper-evident seals and data loggers.

Water users with works that meet the infrastructure size or multiple works thresholds, who wish to keep their existing meters, will need to confirm their meters are pattern-approved and validated, or meet the accuracy requirements, by their roll-out date. They will also need to install a data logger and tamper evident seals.

The new metering requirements will take effect in a staged manner over five years.

Ms Solomon said, “The staged roll-out aims to ensure the largest water users in NSW are metered and telemetered within a year of the metering requirements commencing.”

The roll-out dates of the new metering requirements are:

  • Stage 1: Surface water users with 500 mm pumps or larger must meet the requirements by 1 December 2019.
  • Stage 2: Remaining users in northern inland regions by 1 December 2020.
  • Stage 3: Remaining users in southern inland regions by 1 December 2021.
  • Stage 4: Remaining users in the coastal regions by 1 December 2023.

More information regarding the NSW water metering framework, including the regulation and policy, is available on the Department’s at: www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water-reform/metering-framework .

Source: NSW Department of Industry 2018-12

Murray River planning revised in line with continued dry conditions

Updated operational planning for the Murray River has sharpened focus on the potential for dry conditions to continue through to winter 2019.

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The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) Executive Director of River Management, Andrew Reynolds, said the 2018-19 River Murray System Annual Operating Plan had been updated to reflect the low rainfall and relatively warm conditions experienced across much of the southern Basin over the past winter and spring.

“While we had a small amount of rain in August, things were unusually dry in July and September, which is typically when the system receives most of its rainfall and inflows,” Mr Reynolds said.

“We will continue to plan for all scenarios, including very wet conditions, but this update reflects the greater possibility that dry or very dry scenarios will eventuate.

“We have been transferring water to Lake Victoria during spring to improve its storage in preparation for the demands of summer, however, under dry scenarios we will look to target a volume less than 350 gigalitres, half its capacity, by the end of May 2019.

“Going into winter 2019 with low volumes held in Lake Victoria provides us the greatest opportunity to capture any winter inflows that enter the system downstream of Hume Dam. With Lake Victoria having a relatively large surface area and situated in a hot and windy part of the Basin, this also helps to increase water availability in 2019-2020 by minimising the loss of water through evaporation.

“Under all dry scenarios we continue to run the river high downstream of Yarrawonga, in anticipation of heavy irrigation demand throughout the Murray.

“We are conscious, however, that if conditions remain dry there is the possibility that demand will reduce as water entitlement holders with an allocation will elect to carry over some of their water to the next year.”

Mr Reynolds said another key change in the update was the ability to use Murray Irrigation Limited canals to deliver water downstream of Barmah Choke, where the narrowing of the river limits the volume of water that can pass through.

“We are keenly aware of the difficult times many people are facing due to the drought. This access helps us to reduce the risk of a shortfall in water delivery during times of peak irrigation demand.

“Environmental water holders have so far used less water than they would in an average year, in part because the usual overbank flows in the Barmah-Millewa forest caused by winter rain did not eventuate and as a result there was no natural event to extend.

In this challenging season, having available water sources limited to Hume Dam releases and the Goulburn River has also impacted our ability to deliver water for the environment at the same time as moving water through the system to Lake Victoria.

“Looking forward, there is the possibility for more environmental water to be used but this will depend on system capacity and the environmental priorities that are identified.”

Mr Reynolds said the updated operating plan helped river operators to manage water deliveries and provided a transparent signal to water entitlement holders about the likely risks and opportunities in the period ahead.

“We urge everyone who uses water to plan ahead for all scenarios, including the possibility that conditions stay dry and allocations do not improve. None of us know with certainty how much water we’ll have in storage at the end of the season—that depends on how much it rains,” Mr Reynolds said.

The update is prepared by the MDBA with input from the Australian Government and the Basin states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The 2018-19 River Murray System Annual Operating Plan update is available on the MDBA website.

Fast facts:

  • The Murray–Darling Basin covers one million square kilometres – that’s four times the size of New Zealand.
  • The Murray–Darling Basin accounts for about 14 per cent of Australia’s land mass and produces about 40 per cent of our food and fibre.
  • 2.6 million people live in the Murray–Darling Basin and more than 3 million rely on it for drinking water.

Source: MDBA 2018-12

SunRice axes 100 jobs at Deniliquin and Leeton mills due to Murray water allocation of zero

SunRice says it has been forced to axe at least 100 jobs from its Deniliquin and Leeton mills in southern New South Wales due to low water availability and high water prices.

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Key points:

  • Majority of jobs losses from Deniliquin mill
  • Chairman confident forecast $35m profit will prevail
  • SunRice supplies rice to more than 50 countries

The company will reconfigure its milling, packaging and warehouse operations in the Riverina over the next eight months in preparation for a significantly reduced rice crop next year.

SunRice chairman Laurie Arthur said the 2019 rice crop was shaping up to be the second smallest recorded since the millenium drought in 2003, when 400,000 tonnes of rice was delivered.

“It’s a very tough for SunRice, our employee welfare is paramount and we will continue to employ 500 people in the Riverina,” Mr Arthur said.

The majority of job losses would be from the Deniliquin mill as the general security water allocation in the Murray region was currently zero per cent.

The Murrumbidgee region, where the Leeton SunRice mill is located, had a 7 per cent general security water allocation.

The proposed reconfiguration, which is subject to consultation with employees and unions, will see operational changes and shift restructuring commence from January and be completed by August.

There was 600,000 tonnes of rice delivered from the Riverina in 2018 and that will continue to be processed during that period.

“The key focus will be rebuilding with a better season and better water availability, hopefully next season,” Mr Arthur said.

Not the end for rice in the Riverina

Mr Arthur said the world still had a preference for premium Australian grown rice.

“I’ve just returned from Palestine and our rice sits at a 30 per cent premium to any rice there, we have fantastic markets around the world,” he said.

However, Mr Arthur said under the current climate and competition from cotton and horticulture industries, it was impossible for Riverina rice growers to compete for water.

“Other industries are starting to focus on the general security pool, we are hoping this can be addressed so we have a better situation in the future than the one we have at the moment,” he said.

Impact for shareholders

Mr Arthur is confident SunRice would maintain its profit forecast of $35 million.

“It’s quite a significant financial result and that is based on the changes we made to our global supply chain with mills now in Vietnam and California,” he said.

“We have facilities all around the world and that’s the way we had to go to due to fluctuating size of our Riverina rice crops.

SunRice now supplies rice and other products to more than 50 countries.

“We have been able to establish alternatives to our Australian product, in many cases it’s not as good but it’s okay, and that’s why we rely very much on Australian rice coming back into production,” Mr Arthur said.

“In the mean time we have to keep our markets open, we can’t just walk away for a year and close a market or we would lose that market.”

Forced to reduce crop size

Mr Arthur knows first hand the impact high water prices and lack of allocation is having.

This year he has planted just 100 hectares of rice on his Moulamein property, well back from 600ha he would normally grow.

“I’m still very fortunate I have been able to grow a crop this year, but with zero allocation and temporary water at $440 megalitre, it’s very difficult,” he said.

Pushed out of water market

Ricegrowers Association of Australia president Jeremy Morton, also a grower from Moulamein, said the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, water reform and drought were to blame for the job losses at SunRice.

“In the past when there was a drought there would be a pool of available water and growers could go to that pool and buy water to grow a crop but that pool is now smaller,” Mr Morton said.

“So with supply and demand, and a smaller pool and higher prices it’s no longer commercially viable to enter the water market and grow a rice crop.”

The RGA is concerned about further impacts if an additional 450 gigalitres of water is recovered under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“If they go and recover a whole lot more water out of the productive pool you will see the end of some industries,” Mr Morton said.

“It will come down to the value adding industries like rice and dairy and if the Government proceeds down this pathway, which one of those industries don’t they want anymore?”

Water recovery dries up communities

Edward River Council mayor Norm Brennan is frustrated that the concerns of his community are not being heard.

“The two heads of the Murray Darling Basin Authority, Phillip Glyde and Neil Andrew should be held accountable, they are operating the plan and are not listening to the communities,” Mr Brennan said.

“What it has done is put a lot of pressure on the communities both socially and economically,” he said.

Mr Brennan planned to approach the developer constructing two solar farms near Deniliquin to relocate displaced SunRice employees.

The farms require 200 employees.

“It’s a short-term fix over two years but hopefully by then mother nature might give some rain relief or operations might be fixed up within the Murray-Darling Basin Plan,” Mr Brennan said.

Source: ABC Rural 2018-12

Farmers and police build trust to deter rural crime, with many offences going under-reported

Many farmers are not reporting crimes on their properties because they believe the perpetrators will not be caught, a study shows.

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The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) recently surveyed 700 farmers and found that only 30 per cent of farmers reported crimes — like illegal hunting — on their properties.

The DPI’s Game Licensing Unit has been working with New South Wales police to detect and deter illegal hunting.

DPI Game Licensing director Andrew Moriarty said successful crackdowns were hard to achieve with so few farmers reporting crimes.

“We cannot build a really strong picture as to where the illegal hunting is happening, who is impacted, where we need to direct our resources,” Dr Moriarty said.

Assistant Commissioner and commander of police in the Western NSW region, Geoff McKechnie, said he had seen an increase in farmer confidence but conceded there was more work to be done to build trust that perpetrators would be caught and convicted.

“We have got to produce results as well,” Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said.

“We certainly want to make reporting as timely and as easy as possible as well … people are time poor and often reluctant to spend time doing those sorts of things.”

He said police and communities needed to work together to deter crime.

Stock theft and illegal hunting are two of the major rural crimes affecting farmers and their communities.

A global trend

The lack of confidence farmers have in reporting rural crime is not just a trend throughout New South Wales and the nation.

Kreseda Smith has been researching the relationship between police and farmers throughout the United Kingdom, and in a 12-month period had found rural crime had cost the UK farming community about $80 million.

But the figure was tallied only from the crimes that had been reported.

“Unfortunately it seems to be the case that farmers are tending to feel abandoned by the police in many cases,” Dr Smith said.

However, police were working to improve their relationship with local farmers to increase reporting.

“There are a number of strategic responses going on across the UK,” Dr Smith said.

“I am seeing more police forces individually working with farmers and academia to try and improve the way police are responding.”

South African farmer and academic Willie Clack said there were similar trends in his country.

“In South Africa, there is a total lack of confidence between the farming community and the police,” he said.

“It is not an Aussie or South African phenomenon, it is world phenomenon.

“You can go and look into research that has been done all over the world … there is no confidence.”

Let us know

Rural Crime Squad Detective Inspector Cameron Whiteside said he was aware that, at times, there was inaction.

He said when farmers found that to be the case, they should bring that to the attention of other officers higher up the chain.

“We have not always got it right in the past and we are trying to minimise that [inaction] in the future,” Detective Inspector Whiteside said.

“If they believe they are not getting the service, ask for the supervisor and ultimately we want to take the report and do what we can.”

He also warned landholders that they had a responsibility to make their property as crime-proof as possible.

Technology is helping

Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said plenty was being done to ensure more arrests were made, especially when it came to serious crimes such as illegal hunting.

“It can be a pretty scary experience for people alone, some distance from help when they see spotlights or hear gunshots,” he said.

“We are certainly using cameras, all sorts of devices where we can locate these people and conduct surveillance of these particular areas.”

Recently NSW police have been seizing vehicles of illegal hunters in an effort to stamp out trespassing.

Dr Moriarty said the DPI’s working relationship with NSW police was also proving beneficial.

“I think it is about getting the information out there a lot better than we have and I think there is a fairly strong campaign between us and police brewing in this space,” he said.

Farmers are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 to report offences. 

Source: ABC Rural 2018-12

Queensland’s Longreach, Emerald ag colleges closure dubbed ‘callous’ and ‘disappointing’

The decision by the Queensland Government to close two agricultural colleges in the central and western regions of the state has been dubbed “callous” and “disappointing”.

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The Longreach Pastoral College (LPC) and the Emerald Agricultural College (EAC) were established in the late 1960s.

Following a review by former Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Vice-Chancellor, Peter Coaldrake, the decision to close both schools was made final this week with the state’s Minister for Agriculture Mark Furner calling the teaching model “outdated”.

“Certainly in previous governments and this Government we have poured millions of dollars into this program to try and keep it viable, but we have drawn a line in the sand,” Mr Furner said.

End of family legacy

Rosemary Champion has been a grazier for more than six decades and said seeing the LPC close is “‘heartbreaking”.

Ms Champion had hoped her grandchildren would attend LPC, following in her children’s footsteps and join the family legacy left behind by her father who co-founded the school.

“This is an institution that’s over 50 years old,” she said.

“It only took him one hour to destroy agricultural training in Queensland and cut the whole industry off at the knees.”

Ms Champion also noted the timing of the announcement and said morale was already low in the community because of drought.

“Two weeks before Christmas. People are devasted — it’s a huge blow,” she said. “I think we need to show them what we’re made of out here.”

‘More could have been done’

Former Student and Longreach grazier Belinda Rowbotham said while schools in New South Wales and Western Australia have made agriculture mandatory, Queensland is falling behind.

“More could have been done … I have no doubt there are people in the community devastated by this,” she said.

“The benefit of having the ag college [is] you had an understanding of where the student was at when they came to the property.”

Ms Rowbotham’s partner Sam Coxon agreed. EAC alumni Vince Carige said the college has not been able to keep up with the times.

“I feel they’ve gone off track. They should be focusing on core business,” Mr Carige said.

“Perhaps we don’t need all of them, but we definitely need either Longreach or Emerald.

From college to low-security prison

The Coaldrake Review found that the demand for traditional agricultural training has been declining for years, with 16 students expected to graduate from the two campuses next year.

The review suggested turning the facility into a low-security jail, Indigenous training centre or refugee accommodation.

AgForce Queensland’s general president, Georgie Somerset, said no consultation was made with the industry.

“We’re really disappointed that we haven’t been included in the conversation about what is to become of the future of agricultural training in Queensland,” Mr Somerset said.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said it is yet another blow to the bush.

The State Government has committed $7 million to ensure current students can complete their qualification or studies at QATC or through a “supported transition to other training providers”.

Employment opportunities, following consultation with staff and union representatives, will be looked at including retraining, deployment or redeployment.

Local support for student and staff will also be made available and ongoing consultation on what to do with the ag college facilities.

Source: ABC Western Qld 2018-12

The VFF claims Victoria has “lost” nearly $1billion over water buybacks

Victorian irrigators would be about one billion dollars richer if they sold their water to the Commonwealth today rather than in 2008, according to the Victorian Farmers Federation.

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The VFF has compared the price the Commonwealth Government paid for water in 2008, as part of its water buyback scheme versus the value of the water today.

The Commonwealth buyback for the Basin Plan coincided with the Millennium drought, with Federal authorities opportunistically buying water at distressed values when farmers where facing extreme financial hardship.

“Some water products in Victoria have more than doubled in value over the last ten years, particularly Murray water below the Barmah Choke,” Richard Anderson, VFF Water Council chairman Richard Anderson said.

“It’s alarming that Victorian communities have lost almost one billion dollars from water buyback.”

State comparison

The VFF also analysed the value of water in NSW and SA in 2008, versus the value of that water today.

It found NSW communities have $450 million less as a result of water buyback and the SA Basin community has lost almost $280 million.

“Victoria was unfairly targeted with buyback which saw the Commonwealth spend almost $400 million more in Victoria than any other state.

“We have a very reliable water product in Victoria and the Commonwealth specifically targeted us and still want to target us.”

He said the Federal Government had just wrapped up its road show, trying to secure even more water.

“With less than a week to the Water Ministerial Council we are urging the Victorian Government to ensure a widened socio-economic test is adopted by the Basin States for any recovery of the 450GL.

“Again the Commonwealth is opportunistically trying to recover water at a time when farmers are experiencing severe hardship as a result of the dry season; the Commonwealth is ignoring their anguish and want to recover more water from them,”  Mr. Anderson said.

Previous VFF analysis of the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s community profiles demonstrated examination of full time equivalent job losses, rather than percentage losses, the impact on Victoria was dramatically higher than the other Basin States.

More than 5000 job losses were recorded  in Victorian agricultural production; compared with 2,877 jobs losses in New South Wales and 2,287 job losses in South Australia.

“These job losses cannot be ignored. The rate of job losses would be expected to increase at an increasing rate if more water is taken from the consumptive pool,” Mr Anderson said.

Littleproud responds

Federal Water Minister David Littleproud said he had consistently maintained the additional 450Gl could only be delivered through projects with a positive, or neutral, socio-economic benefit.

“The criteria for a socio-economic test is currently out for consultation and ministers will be considering it in the coming few weeks.”

“I recognise irrigators in the southern Basin are facing rising prices and in NSW, low to zero allocations.”

‘There is still water available on the market for irrigators and only a very small fraction in storage is held by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.”

He said he expected to pass on the Seftons report into consultations to the Basin states, shortly after receiving it.

“I expect the consultation report will provide a comprehensive and thorough review of all the views expressed.”

“The consultation report is part of the work commissioned by MinCo and its release is a matter for MinCo.”

“The decision on how a socio-economic test would be applied is a matter for MinCo.”

Source: Stock & Land 2018-12

Sources include: ABC Rural, The Land, The Weekly Times, Stock and Land, Stock Journal, Bloomberg, Farm Online, Queensland Country Life

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