A POLITICAL furore erupted yesterday over the structural adjustment package for Naomi Valley irrigators and it seems the big losers could be the water users themselves.
The State Government last week promised $20 million for the package and it was understood that their Federal counterparts would match this amount.
However, yesterday the Commonwealth Government backflipped on this agreement saying it would not provide any immediate assistance.
"Without warning and totally contrary to all previous undertakings, the Commonwealth officials outlined a different approach to the one agreed upon by John Anderson last week," NSW Minister for Land and Water Conservation Mr Aquilina said.
"Our plan is to roll out $36 million immediately in direct payments tot he 250 irrigators most affected by changes in groundwater management necessary for long-term use of the water supply.
"Mr Anderson has stopped it dead claiming that the responsibly of direct payments to irrigators for the reduction of their water use is State, not Commonwealth."
However, Mr Anderson said that it wasn't that simple.
"Our offer to help has remained on the table right through. For many months nothing happened, but in June NSW announced that it would make a payment of $20 million and they asked us to match that money," Mr Anderson said.
Mr Anderson also pointed out that the $20million promised by the State was still a far cry from the $40million recommended by the Namoi Ground Water Taskforce and this was the amount they had promised to match.
"Whilst always remaining willing to match the money in principle, NSW must be held accountable to pay those affected by the claw back of water allocations."
Executive officer of the Namoi Valley Water Users' Association, Jerry Killen summed up the affair as cheap political point scoring.
"I'm very disappointed that the State and Federal Governments are finding it hard to come to a satisfactory outcome as identified by the Namoi Ground Water Users Task Force," Mr Killen said.
"A proper decision process is needed to get the required adjustments put in place while protecting the integrity of regional economic
"It's not the time for political point scoring by either government. The whole of the Namoi Valley has major concerns about the impacts of the water cutbacks and combined with the
conditions there are going to be many businesses go to the wall."
A spokeswoman for Mr Aquilina said their $20 million would be given to the irrigators as soon as possible, whether or not their Federal counterparts came on board.