The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has dubbed Mr Ken Matthews’ Interim Report as ‘salient’ reading and a ‘frank and fearless’ review of water compliance and enforcement in New South Wales.
“It is certainly not a whitewash,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.
“I am pleased to see Mr Matthews has swept nothing under the carpet in presenting his interim report to the NSW Government.
“In his report, Mr Matthews continually highlights the importance of public confidence in compliance and enforcement systems, and we cannot agree more.
“Farmers from the north to the south of the Basin and everywhere in between, must have confidence that the compliance framework that underpins water management in each state is fair and robust.”
“The majority of irrigators across the basin who do the right thing are aggrieved that the reputation of their sector is being called into question by allegations against a few, and actions of a Government that fall short of everyone’s expectations.”
Ms Simson said the NFF, on behalf of the farm sector, had zero tolerance for illegal water take.
“Illegal take is theft from all other water users, basin communities, taxpayers and the environment.
“Irrigators pay a considerable charge as part of their licence fees to fund compliance activities and in return, they expect effective compliance to be the carried out.
“We expect regulators to do their job, and to do their job properly. The Matthews’ Interim Report points to significant shortcomings in the NSW Government’s approach.”
Although Mr Matthews’ Interim Report presents a range of facts in regards to specific allegations raised about the management of water extraction in the Barwon-Darling River, it does not draw any conclusions.
Ms Simson said the onus was now on the NSW Government to resolve the outstanding compliance allegations, as soon as possible.
“It is unfair to both those accused and the broader community that this uncertainty continue to linger.
“Unresolved allegations of illegal water take and lax compliance systems are very concerning and if left unaddressed, risk detracting from the continued implementation of the plan.”
Ms Simson said the NFF continued to hold the view that it was important to let the five announced inquiries into the allegations raised on 4 Corners in July 2017 run their course.
“We do not support jumping headlong into a protracted Basin-wide judicial inquiry that could take months to establish and years to come to any specific conclusions and recommendations.
“As the interim report of the Matthews’ Inquiry has shown, focused and expert inquiries can report and deliver clear recommendations, in a very timely and efficient manner, enabling Governments to respond now and not sometime in the distant future.”
Ms Simson said agriculture across the Murray Darling Basin accounted for about 40% of the $62.8 billion total value of agriculture in Australia.