Water irrigators voice concerns
UPPER Mary River irrigators are feeling threatened and left out, as they compete for water with growing urban and environmental demands.
They told a government-sponsored information meeting yesterday of their fears for the future.
Ex-Sunwater customer council chairman and Imbil farmer Rob Priebe told government officials that he and his agricultural colleagues were the only interest group without a representative say in government plans to rewrite the rules for water allocations in the Mary.
The meeting, at Gympie Civic Centre, was organised by the Department of Environment and Resource Management as an information exercise to explain the government’s plans and to call for submissions from individuals.
Senior departmental officers explained the intentions of the government’s Draft Resource Operations Plan, which seeks to balance the competing demands of urban, environmental and irrigation water usage.
With the customer council no longer in existence under a recently changed administrative structure, Mr Priebe said: “Unfortunately, all the other groups have an organised body which acts as a contact point.
“But the government has decided that the farming community does not have such a group.
“We are concerned at the lack of an organised group to act as a spokesperson for irrigators,” he said.
However, senior departmental officials made sure those present yesterday were aware of the public’s right to make individual submissions on the draft plan by an October 22 deadline.
One assured farmers that, while environmental releases were a part of the management of Baroon Pocket dam on Obi Obi Creek, there was no provision for environmental releases from Borumba dam.
Environmental purposes were served as a side benefit of water releases for irrigators.
High priority water allocations were specifically allowed for Gympie and Noosa urban consumers and the rest was natural flow and irrigation releases.
Trading of irrigation rights would allow flexibility for farmers, including a right to mortgage their water rights if they did not wish to borrow against their land.
The new plan sought to provide a clearer, formalised and more transparent approach to balancing the requirements of urban users, farmers and ecological assets, with better monitoring to ensure these measures were working.