Flawed data recognised by department officials
THE battle is far from over, but irrigators are one step closer to avoiding unrealistic and damaging water allocations.
Vegetable farmer Tim Linnan was among the 200-strong crowd that attended a community forum on Tuesday night, where it was evident distributing water allocations was not possible with flawed data.
The third-generation Lake Clarendon grower said, "for once, the government has listened to us".
Just two weeks prior, the Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy announced it was going to push forward with water allocations, some which left growers with only one mega-litre/hectare.
It would have left Mr Linnan with a drop over 1ML/ha to irrigate 200ha of broccolini and shallots all-year-round.
Fourteen days later, it was a different story when department executive director David Wiskar addressed the crowd saying more work was required to improve the science and data behind ground water metering.
"It's a big step," Mr Linnan said.
"But I don't feel relieved yet - not that I don't trust them, but because it's (the plan) still not finished."
The plan review by the Lockyer Water Users Forum came to fruition last year when the community raised more than $80,000 for vital research.
Funding allowed the water forum to utilise hydrogeologist.com.au's Daniel Barclay and Badu Advisory to investigate groundwater metering and put forward a submission to the plan.
While growers are yet to receive a numerical water allocation, the department has recognised the need to re-assess groundwater data based on submissions by local growers and business owners.
"We agree with the submission we need a more reliable metering network," Mr Wiskar said.
Mr Wiskar said the short-term goal was to amend the water plan and failing water metering instruments by the end of the year.
He said the plan would be reviewed in five years' time based on information from improved water metering.
Concluding the meeting, Lockyer Growers Association member Brock Sutton said what irrigators heard from the department was the closest confession to "we got it wrong" they would get.
"It may feel like smoke and mirrors, but I've seen the other side and they're hearing us," Mr Sutton said.
"They aren't just looking at it as water, but the mechanism to drive growth in our region."
Mr Linnan said the outcome from the department was a great result for irrigators and the community.
"As a group, we don't want one farmer to get 1ML/ha and another getting 10ML/ha," he said.
"I don't think there is anyone totally against allocations, but we have got to get the right number."
Formulate a plan for the irrigators, by the irrigators
A LOCALLY formulated plan would ensure Central Lockyer irrigators could continue farming, even in testing drought conditions.
That's the aim for the Lockyer Water Users Forum, who put forward a 10-point response to the Moreton Resource Plan draft amendment.
"If we don't have a plan and we don't agree to something, we will be given one that we won't like," forum chairperson Paul Emmerson said.
"We need to find another alternative, that's our challenge."
He said proposed water allocations would not only affect the Central Lockyer irrigators, but irrigators up and down stream.
"We want to get the Central Lockyer the way we want it," he said.
"Otherwise, they (the department) will roll it out across the whole Lockyer Valley.
"People across the Lockyer are in support of the Central Lockyer, for the fear of what could eventually happen to them."
Federal Member for Wright Scott Buchholz attended the forum held on Tuesday in Gatton and said the fight was not over.
"We have just started," he said.
"We have won the first found, but there's a few to go."
Mr Buchholz said he would support any funding applications that were submitted to him that would assist a positive outcome for farmers.
"Any (funding for) water applications that come to me will have (my) full support," he said.