Deniliquin stakeholders say they should not have to pay for shallow bores after receiving bills in recent months.By Zoe McMaugh
Irrigators are being forced to pay for a community environmental asset, according to local stakeholders.
Irrigators have received bills for shallow bores in recent months, which Deniliquin farmer Adam Wettenhall says they should not be forced to pay.
He said the unused shallow bore entitlements were created to help the environment, not as a commercial water source.
Mr Wettenhall and his wife Pam inherited a shallow bore, called a spear point, when they purchased their property five years ago.
He said the spear point has been unused for at least four years, and will not be needed for at least another three.
Yet, the Wettenhalls received a bill for the bore which Mr Wettenhall estimated to be about $1300.
A spokesperson from the NSW Office of Water confirmed irrigators are charged a fixed rate on entitlements and another rate for usage.
Mr Wettenhall, however, argues that because spear points are an environmental asset the cost should not be a burden for farmers.
‘‘These spear points were put in to control the water table problem,’’ he said.
‘‘When the water table was high, I believe farmers were being paid to reduce it by pumping.
‘‘Now that it is low, the bore is not usable.
‘‘NOW will argue the bores are there for commercial use, but I argue that they were put in for the environment.
‘‘Spear points are shallow bores which can normally only pump 1-2ML a day – that’s nothing in the scheme of things.’’
Mr Wettenhall said pumping from spear points helps keep the shallow aquifer from rising too high, which would create a salinity issue.
He labelled the government charge, which NOW confirmed was set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, as ‘‘just revenue raising’’.
He said he would not accept it and has already written to NSW Water Commissioner David Harriss and Member for Farrer Sussan Ley.
‘‘We (Pam and I) are refusing to pay.
‘‘We would rather hand our licence back in.
‘‘This is just another case of regional areas being shafted again. When is it going to stop?’’
West Berriquin Irrigator Group chairman James Sides said the group has also lobbied NSW Member for Murray-Darling John Williams and NSW Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson ‘‘exhaustively’’, but said there has been no response.
‘‘We (the group) have elected as a group not to pay, in defiance, any fees or charges until a satisfactory outcome to return the spear points as an environmental asset is reached,’’ Mr Sides said.
‘‘Although the bores are not typically in productive use, there comes a time when they will be needed and then who will pay?
‘‘How can the government make a determination that the spear points are a commercial asset when the government assisted with their development as an environmental asset?
‘‘I believe our defiance in not paying should send a clear message to the government that they have a duty of care to ensure that further soil degradation does not take place.’’
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