Water prices have been a constant cause of concern
for irrigators. In 1975 mass meetings were held to
protest the latest price rises, with irrigators suggesting
that perhaps they should take on the running of the
irrigation system themselves.
Dissatisfaction with irrigation operations continued
to escalate in the following years. When irrigators in
the region were faced with another major price rise in
1987 they united in a “no pay” stance.
One of their key complaints was that not enough of
the money collected through water sales was being
returned to maintain and improve local infrastructure.
The NSW Government responded by setting up
Irrigation Advisory Management Boards and giving
irrigators greater involvement in the operation and
management of their regions.
In 1989, following a detailed inquiry, the Government
separated its state-based water regulation operations
from its regional water distribution operations. This
created a “State” and “Commercial” arm within what
was then, the Department of Water Resources.
Irrigators now began lobbying in earnest for autonomous
control and ownership of their regional irrigation
networks. It took more than five years of
negotiations to reach an agreement.
In early 1995 more than 700 irrigators at a meeting in
Deniliquin voted to support a fully irrigator-owned
water supply company in the Southern Riverina. The
NSW Government then enacted the final legislation
which allowed the hand-over of its irrigation network
in the region, and in other parts of the state, to irrigators.