MAYOR John Dal Broi has slammed the Office of Water's "arachaic" allocation policy, claiming the state government was playing poker with the livelihoods of local irrigation farmers.
With the Burrinjuck and Blowering dams at 68 and 65 per cent full, Cr Dal Broi was incensed farmers only had access to 17 per cent of their general security allocation and suggested risk-averse allocations had gutted the local economy to the tune of $50 million in the past 12 months.
Cr Dal Broi's sentiment echoed similar statements from the local agricultural industry's heaviest hitters, including president of the Murrumbidgee Valley Food and Fibre Association Debbie Buller, NSW Farmers Griffith branch president Helen Dalton and most recently SunRice chief executive Rob Gordon.
Cr Dal Broi said the Department of Primary Industries would likely refute his complaints because farmers had the option to purchase water on the temporary market, but he said that was not a commercially viable alternative.
"The conundrum is you have to prepare your soil and purchase your input requirements like fertiliser and seed, simply based on a predicition," Cr Dal Broi said.
"Farmers will begin preparing their crops next month but they don't know if they will have enough water to finish them off.
"With the dams around the 60 to 70 per cent mark, there is no logical reason why farmers shouldn't have at least 50 per cent of their general security entitlements, which would at least allow a bit more certainty to plan a program."
Cr Dal Broi said citrus and wine grape farmers with permanent plantations and access to high security water were also being ripped off.
"High security farmers get charged asset levies on the 5 per cent of allocation which goes towards environmental flows, even though they can't use it themselves," he said.
"Likewise last year general security irrigators got around 65 per cent of their entitlement but had to pay 100 per cent of the asset levies on their allocation - they're paying for a commodity they're not receiving and that affects their bottom line."
Cr Dal Broi said farmers were still bitter about last year's "fiasco" which saw the off-season environmental draw-down of the Burrinjuck dam cause an imbalance between the dams and limited how much water could reach the farm gate.
He added that between Murrumbidgee Irrigation (MI), State Water, Office of Water, Department of Environment and Heritage, Department of Primary Industries, National Water Commission and the Murray Darling Basin Authority, too many cooks were spoiling the broth.