Are New England politicians facing more troubled water ahead

Barnaby Joyce
Barnaby Joyce

IT’S hard to pick a winner in this water fight.

There’s biffs breaking out on different sides of the fence, while some won’t even dip their toes in to the debate, others are doing cannonballs while some are diving in the wrong end.

Everyone got a bit wet and perhaps some are feeling bit colder for the experience.

It’s not hard to see why water is such a loaded issue at the moment, take a short drive and you’ll quickly see the region is blanketed in parched pasture.

There’s no indication of relief in sight.

The Peel Valley irrigators were the first group to draw attention to the proposed environmental release of water from Chaffey Dam.

The group claimed 6,257 megalitres would be released from the dam down the Peel River, in coming months, which is more than a year’s supply for an irrigator in the region.

It was only a couple of weeks ago the bulk water users expressed concern about a looming reduction in water allocations for the next financial year as dam levels dropped.

Notwithstanding, the lack of rainfall in recent months has meant demand for hay from the irrigators has been high.

So the pressure is building on their industry from a number of angles.

That valve has been released for now with New England MP Barnaby Joyce announcing the initial 6250 megalitre proposal has been watered-down to 3870 megalitres.

While the water fight initially seemed to be between environment and industry, there was also a hint a brouhaha bubbling between Mr Joyce and state MP Kevin Anderson.

Mr Anderson said the commonwealth had made the decision, but as a local MP it was “important that local water needs are not put at risk because of any release from Chaffey”.

“I urge concerned irrigators to contact their local federal MP to highlight their anxieties over the proposed Commonwealth water release,” he said.

Mr Joyce shot this down and said the majority of the water to be released resided with the state, not the Commonwealth.

“The Commonwealth section of that is 1.25, the remainder is the state,” Mr Joyce said.

He iterated and reiterated the point.

Will the two be able build a bridge over the troubled water or are there choppier seas over the horizon?