Farmers face irrigation restrictions

Land. Irrigation water restrictions have been placed on four Circular Head rivers and their tributaries, in force until next month.

The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) has placed restrictions on Black, Detention, Montagu and Welcome rivers and their tributaries citing “continued low flows” for the reason behind the restricted access.

Unless gaining written approval from the appropriate minister, no water is to be taken for irrigation from the Black, Montagu or Welcome rivers. However, 50 per cent of daily allocation amounts specified in water licences can be taken from Detention River.

Restrictions will remain in force until Friday February 5, 7pm for Black, Detention and Welcome rivers; and Monday February 8, 7pm for Montagu River.

DPIPWE has stated it will be regularly monitoring these streams while the restrictions are in place. Failure to comply could result in penalties.

Following the announcement, Minister for Primary Industries and Water Jeremy Rockliff said the Tasmanian government is “committed to doing everything it can to support farming families” and ensure the continued growth of primary industries.

“There’s no doubt a number of Tasmanian farmers are struggling with dry conditions at the moment and I empathise with their frustrations.

“This season has been extremely challenging.

“While conditions are very dry as a result of below average rainfall, we are not yet at the point of drought,” he said on Sunday.

Mawbanna dairy farmer Matthew Gunningham, who is also one of the instigators pushing for a community-run irrigation scheme, said this year has “certainly been one of the drier seasons”.

“We’ve been farming here for 15 years, we’ve never had such an unusually dry season,” he said.

“We all had it in mind that it could be a dry season, but it has probably taken most of us by surprise that’s its been so dry for so long.”

Mr Gunningham added that early on it was a favourable spring with “kind weather for the cows and we made a very strong start to the season on production”, however it will ultimately be an “expensive year” in having to pump a lot of water early and purchase more feed at higher prices.

To compensate, he said some cows had been culled earlier while others are likely to be dried off sooner. Winter crops have also been planted earlier than usual.

“From that perspective, it’s taken the shine off things.”

But in looking forward Mr Gunningham said, “it’s more a case of managing the season that you’ve got in front of you”.

“I think the industry does quite a good job in supporting farmers, talking about it, suggesting strategies, looking for ways that you can combat it.”

Farmers needing support can contact Rural Alive and Well’s 24/7 hotline 1300 HELP MATE (1300 4357 6283).

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