Rice growers and irrigators across the region have labelled a new draft water report 'catastrophic' and called for serious amendments.
The draft water report, released by the Productivity Commission in February, assesses the progress in national water reform over the past few years and provides advice on future directions.
The Ricegrowers Association of Australia (RGA) says the report has missed the mark completely.
The RGA believes the current report is too harsh on entitlements owners, will create uncertainty in water security and will hurt regional businesses who rely on agriculture.
Every irrigation advocacy group is in unison in their condemnation of this reportChris Morshead, RGA member and irrigator
RGA President Rob Massina said the draft review "blundered the opportunity to make a significant and lasting contribution to the future of water reform" and serious reforms to the report were needed.
Chris Morshead, an irrigator and rice grower based just east of Griffith, said the report the report "failed in catastophic fashion" to understand the impacts of water management on irrigators.
Mr Morshead says the recommendation that entitlement owners will be responsible for reduced water inflows is "scary" and all people involved in the use of water should be responsible for those impacts.
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Another recommendation made in the report is that triggers be identified for periodically rebalancing water use, which Mr Morshead says will create needless uncertainty for irrigators.
"The triggers could be every five years ... that will just completely erode any confidence farmers have in their system if they have no idea how much water they will have access to in five years time," he said.
Finally, Mr Morshead and the RGA criticised the suggestion made in the report that industry assistance and grants should be avoided.
"Industry assistance and grants have been really successful in assisting regional communities and business owners in adjusting to the dynamic changes that Murray Darling Basin Plan has imposed on us," Mr Morshead said.
"The fact that they are advising against that is to the detriment of all rural businesses that rely on irrigation."
Mr Morshead said the one positive of the report was that it was only a draft, and he was hopeful that the productivity commission would hear the complaints of irrigators and consider serious reform.
We call upon the Productivity Commission to make major changes to this draft report before releasing their final report.Chris Morshead
"Every irrigation advocacy group is in unison in their condemnation of this report and the findings within and are desperately urging the Productivity Commision to review every aspect of that report before making final."
"We call upon the Productivity Commission to make major changes to this draft report before releasing their final report."
Mr Morshead said he was glad advocacy groups were given the chance to suggest improvements to the report.
"It's a big positive that the RGA, the NSW Irrigators and other similar irrigation advocacy groups are still able to access and influence at all levels of government and regulatory authority level," he said.
"Because they've dealt with all these groups in a respectful and meaningful fashion and that stands us in good stead going forward to enact the changes that will benefit members, farmers and regional communities."
People are able to make submissions to the draft report by Wednesday March 24 on the Productivity Commission website.
The final report is expected to be handed to the Australian Government by the end of June 2021.
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