‘If there is excess water, farmers should be able to use it’
Farmers in coastal areas of Northern NSW may be able to retain more water from rain in dams.
The NSW Government is currently seeking community feedback on a proposed change in existing harvestable right limits in coastal catchments.
Nationals Member of the Legislative Council, Ben Franklin, said the NSW Government was reviewing the issue to improve water security for rural farmers and landholders.
"The current harvestable right in coastal draining catchments allows landholders in these regions to harvest 10 per cent of rainfall run-off from their properties," Mr Franklin said.
Farmers are able to harvest that water, without requiring extra permits, in dams built in their properties.
The local Nationals MLC said this was a significant issue for the Northern Rivers.
"One of the reasons for that is because we receive a higher rainfall on the coast that they do on the divide and inland, and there is more run-off here that there is inland," he said.
"We also need to protect anything that could be affected by this.
"There has to be a consideration to landholders and farmers, but also the environmental requirements, and what is needed for the town's water supplies.
"Also, what are the cultural issues by Aboriginal communities? Do they use the water for different things? Are there any other socio-economic considerations that need to be looked at?
"Also, what else can we do to improve access to water, more broadly?
"But if there is excess water, farmers should be able to use it."
Mr Franklin said another reason for the idea to be discussed was that there few public storages of water in the coast for agriculture or stock and domestic use.
"We have some dams in Emigrant and Rocky Creek dams, but what this is about is looking at a process that has been in place for 20 years, where the rules have been the same for all this time," he said.
"My instinct is that increasing the percentage is reasonable, simply because of where we live and because our dams are full so often (...) that implies that the water is there and farmers should be able to use it."
A public meeting in Lismore to discuss the issue scheduled for Monday, March 22, was cancelled due to bad weather.
Mr Franklin said the face-to-face meeting in Lismore will be rescheduled and details will be published here.
A public webinar for everyone in NSW to attend online will take place between 4pm and 6pm on Wednesday, April 7.
Feedback in regard to this issue is open to the community until April 18.
The government will then formulate a plan that may result on new regulation or even extra legislation may be required.