Local irrigators would bear the brunt of proposed law changes that would improve water security, Tamworth water director Bruce Logan concedes.
Mr Logan spoke at a state Upper House inquiry this week, which is considering a trio of bills, one of which would reverse a 2014 law allowing the state government to ignore the recent worst-ever drought when making water rules.
The new bill would require government to keep more water in reserve during good times.
Asked by Nationals MLC Trevor Khan if greater town water security wouldn't come at the expense of local irrigators, Mr Logan conceded it would.
But, he said, landholders had received a boost of supply from the augmentation of Chaffey Dam.
Mr Logan told the committee by not considering up-to-date information the government was pretending the recent worst-ever drought "never happened, it won't happen again, and if it did then applying exactly the same rules would somehow see a different result".
"Council believes that the water sharing plans need to improve, that the level of security and reliability provided by the water sharing plans for Tamworth, Moonbi and Kootingal is not sufficient and we need to provide greater security and reliability of water supply in those centres," he said.
"It's not in anyone's interest, in the council's view, to have the largest centre in the New England North West on severe levels of water restrictions for long periods."
Tamworth Regional Council has long lobbied for the change to be included in the local Peel and Namoi Valley Water Sharing Plans, but both were sent to the Commonwealth last month unchanged for evaluation.
Minister for Water Melinda Pavey told the inquiry the state government had made sensible rules based on the long-term average of inflows over a decades-long period, rather than the worst-ever year.
"It's not as simple as a headline in the Northern Daily Leader," she said.
"We are getting better at respecting water as a precious resource."
The region's "drought of record" happened in the 1940s, she revealed - but the 2019 drought was nearly twice as bad as the benchmark, she said.
Asked if the the water sharing plan sent to the Commonwealth in June was final, Ms Pavey flagged change could happen in the future.
"We will have to change the water sharing plan once Dungowan Dam is built," she said.
Under questioning by Independent MLC Justin Field, Mr Logan revealed Minister Pavey has not formally told Tamworth council she won't make changes to the plan to increase water security after the recent drought.
In response to a series of questions later sent by the Leader as to whether Tamworth would go into the next drought with the same rules as the last one Minister Pavey said the new Chaffey and Dungowan pipeline projects and new Dungowan Dam project would "secure the long-term water supply security for Tamworth."
Asked if government was planning to make changes to water sharing plans, the Minister said they can be amended at any time if it is in the public interest to do so.
"This can happen as part of the implementation phase of approved regional water strategies, or as any new approved infrastructure comes online. There will be consultation on any proposed amendments."
The Legislative Council inquiry was established to inquire into and report on three bills proposed by the Labor Party, which would among other things reverse a 2014 law which excluded droughts after 2004 from the definition of "drought of record".
That benchmark defines the period when inflows into a catchment were at their lowest, and is used as the basis for a decision about how much water can be sustainably extracted.