A SECRET meeting held in Griffith last week between the major players in the water allocation debate failed to make any progress.
The meeting was held to discuss concerns that overly conservative general security water allocations were hampering irrigation farmers and local commerce was suffering the flow-on effects.
Commissioner of the NSW Office of Water David Harriss met with Griffith mayor John Dal Broi, president of the Murrumbidgee Valley Food and Fibre Association Debbie Buller, NSW Farmers Griffith branch president Helen Dalton, Griffith Chamber of Commerce’s Paul Pierotti and council employees.
Cr Dal Broi said every farmer that limits their crop because of low water allocations will spend less in town.
“Of course I am concerned for the irrigation farmers but I am also very worried about how conservative allocations will effect the economics of Griffith,” Cr Dal Broi said.
“It was good of the Commissioner to spend a couple of hours with local interested parties and we will have more talks like this but in future we need to talk in July/August when something can be done.”
President of Griffith’s branch of the NSW Farmers Association, Helen Dalton, said it was good of the Commissioner to meet in Griffith but he was so constrained by legislation it was impossible to make any headway.
“David Harriss has a job to do and his job is to announce allocations at no risk to the state government, for fear they’ll overallocate like they did in 2006,” she said.
“Given that we’ve had three good seasons in a row and we only get 100 per cent in December, goodness only knows what will happen in a dry year.
“Harriss heard what we had to say but he’s operating in his own paradigm which requires the farmer to take all the risk while the government takes none.”
President of the Murrumbidgee Valley Food and Fibre Association, Debbie Buller, echoed Ms Dalton’s frustration.
“It was constructive in the regard that we got our issues heard but I am disappointed that the issues aren’t being seriously considered,” she said.
“The rice crop alone is going to be down 20-30 per cent simply because we can’t get access to our water rights in a timely fashion.”
A spokesperson for the NSW Office of Water thanked Cr Dal Broi for hosting the meeting and said the office was always happy to meet with stakeholders to discuss their concerns.