Sinister happenings in the green kingdom of Bob Brown! somebody is stealing water, raising the never answered question—how can anyone “own” what falls from the sky? Rain that knows no borders or fences, a liquid that falls freely from the heavens landing where ever it pleases without instruction, starts at a high point, courses through hill and dale leaving puddles on its path to the lowest point—the ocean? It’s enough to drive a man to drink—or the legislated opportunity for greed!
There are claims that as Tasmanian farmers face an impending drought, some are taking water from river systems they have not paid for. Melbourne-based investor David Williams owns $15 million worth of water in Tasmania’s irrigation schemes. He believes more water is going missing than can be accounted for through evaporation losses and wants authorities to keep a closer eye on the state’s catchments.
Irrigation scheme investor raises allegations some Tasmanian farmers are taking water illegally
There are claims that as Tasmanian farmers face an impending drought, some are taking water from river systems they have not paid for.
Melbourne-based investor David Williams owns $15 million worth of water in Tasmania’s irrigation schemes.
He believes more water is going missing than can be accounted for through evaporation losses and wants authorities to keep a closer eye on the state’s catchments.
“If there’s no policing there’s going to be anarchy,” he said.
“We have to have some policing, it’s not acceptable to let people take some water out of those river systems and irrigation systems for free when farmers have paid good money — including myself — have paid good money to get access to that water.”
Mr Williams owns water in state-owned company Tasmanian Irrigation’s Midlands and Lower South Esk schemes.
He said taking water without a licence was unfair for farmers and businessmen who have contributed money to fund the state’s irrigation schemes.
“It needs to be policed, otherwise the Government’s good work in building the system — the Federal and State Government — and people like me and hundreds of other farmers which have paid for that system to be built, we’re just losing value in our water licences,” he said.
“If we’ve got 100 mega-litres of water I might only be able to take 70, even though I’ve paid for 100 because other people are taking water out of the system without paying for it.”
I’m not aware of anyone taking water when it isn’t rightfully theirs…most of the missing water is down to evaporation.Julian Von Bibra farmer
Mr Williams does not have any empirical evidence of the practise occurring, but he said there was a lot of anecdotal evidence.
“My evidence is from talking to farmers down there, from talking to all sorts of officials,” he said.
“I think if you talk to farmers in those areas you’ll find that it’s common knowledge.”
Julian Von Bibra is a farmer at Ross, who has invested in Tasmanian Irrigation Midland scheme and is also chairman of the separate Elizabeth-Macquarie Irrigation Trust.
He has denied the claims, arguing that most of the missing water can be attributed to evaporation losses.
“I’m not aware of anyone taking water when it isn’t rightfully theirs,” Mr Von Bibra said.
“I’m not sure where he [Mr Williams] gets his advice from, those who live here are also well connected, most of the missing water is down to evaporation.”
But Mr Von Bibra stopped short of criticising Mr Williams personally, thanking him for his contribution to the Midlands’ irrigation scheme.
“We appreciate the contribution he’s made into investing into our community water scheme and the fact that it has got it off the ground and we now have options, we can approach him and purchase water, which is great,” he said.
The ABC understands water theft has been concerning water users for many years.
Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff said his department took the issue seriously.
“We’ll investigate any matters when it comes to farmers not complying with statutory requirements, we take those matters very seriously,” he said.
There are plans to deploy more departmental staff this summer to monitor water use.
The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association president Wayne Johnston said he could not confirm any reports of water theft.
“If farmers are doing that then they’re really only stealing off their next door neighbour,” Mr Johnston said.
Tasmanian Irrigation would not comment publicly on the issue.