'BUSINESS AS USUAL': Irrigators choose farms over fines
IF SOUTHERN Downs irrigators are forced to choose between the survival of their family farms and a hefty fine, they know which decision they'll make.
Seven days ago, representatives for the Glengallan group issued a warning to the State Government to revoke poorly timed irrigation restrictions that threatened the success of crops and well being of livestock.
As the deadline looms large, rural residents have started to consider what their next step will be if the resources minister doesn't act.
Ex-deputy mayor and irrigator Ross Bartley said there was an attitude amongst irrigators that "it'll be business as usual.”
"And they can take that whichever way they want,” he said.
A common belief is the courts would not enforce a $60,000 fine on families that are already struggling to make ends meet, during the worst conditions they've faced in more than 120 years.
RANGE president Andrew Gale said he couldn't foresee producers prosecuted over a failure to comply as it would draw widespread attention to the lack of notice and consultation impacting farmers.
"They wouldn't allow them to,” he said.
Mr Bartley said "any sensible person” would realise the department's new policies were unreasonable.
"What magistrate is going to cop a fine on a busted irrigator at this point in time?” he said.
"I don't think they're going to fine anyone.”
The state shadow minister for DNRME and the state member for the Southern Downs have both thrown their weight behind the cause, tabling a petition with parliament and writing to the minister.
State MP James Lister said even farmers who sought to install meters and comply with regulations faced major hurdles.
"No notice meant the guys in town, Lister Irrigation, have no stock of meters, they're not sure what the specifications are, and they just don't have the staff to rush out and do over a thousand new installations,” he said.
"Irrigators would have to wait, and while they wait, watering 12 hours here and 12 hours there just doesn't work.
"It was a stuff up and stuff ups happen but they have to back down on this.”
The irrigators demand for the notices to be revoked was due today.
An earlier statement by a spokesman for the DNRME said the department was considering their proposals.