Sussan Ley has announced a plan to lend a hand to drought-affected farmers.
The federal Member for Farrer has said she’d like to see a system set-up given the option of borrowing commonwealth environmental water and paying it back over time.
Ms Ley said 500 gigalitres of environmental water is currently being stored in the southern basin as the responsibility of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWH). She has taken the idea to her colleagues in Canberra.
“It’s that we borrow water from the environment and we pay it back. It’s very simple, it’s very straightforward,” she Ley said.
“If you don’t want to participate in it as an irrigator, you don’t have to. It’s not going to affect the water market.”
The biggest battle, she said, is getting it past bureaucrats.
“In developing and exploring it, I’ve come to the conclusion that the commonwealth environmental waterholder, their terms of reference and their status needs to be completely reviewed,” she said.
“They are telling us that they’re independent and we can’t ask them for their water. That is absolutely crazy. In creating an environmental water holder we have created a monster.”
According to NSW Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) drought indicator, every part of the state is affected by drought. Almost half is officially “in drought”, while 21 per cent is experiencing the affects of “intense drought”.
She described an ‘opt-in’ system for borrowing.
“I describe it as a financial instrument that can sit side-by-side with water trading. It makes perfect sense,” she said.
The impact of drought and shortage of water has seen communities come together across the state. In Deniliquin, Speak Up NSW have held a crisis rally.
“We can either let things continue on the way they are going, which is generally considered to be unsatisfactory, or we can stand up and make our voices heard,” chair Shelley Scoullar said.
“Whatever the outcome, we need a strong, united voice from our community.”
Ms Ley has also taken the idea to colleagues in Canberra, where she said she’s received a positive response.
“I got a positive response from my South Australian colleagues because they want to look after farmers whether they’re in Victoria or South Australia,” she said.