Class action haults as cash dries up

25th May 2007Drought pressures and dwindling bank balances have stopped hundreds of southern irrigators joining the fight for compensation after drastic water cuts to groundwater and carry over allocations last year.

Irrigators say financial pressures are forcing them to pull out of plans to launch class actions against the State Government’s water cuts, despite their anger at Maquarie Street’s water-cutting precedent.

Instead, continuing dry conditions, high livestock feed costs and uncertainty about the cost and length of legal action has forced many producers to accept the NSW Governments offer of assistance of $100 a megalitre, just a fraction of the potential production value of lost allocations.

Last month a landmark class action by Murrumbidgee groundwater irrigators was abandoned due to grower apathy and a lack of funds.

Producers had hoped to sue the Government over its sudden decision last year to drop allocations from 18 per cent to 10 per cent mid-season.

While 150 irrigators initially supported legal action, numbers dwindled and the legal costs would be too much for the remaining growers to bear.

Initial interest has also subsided from Murray Valley irrigators looking to launch the class action against the NSW Government for carry over water cuts made without warning late last year.

The cuts resulted in summer crops being abandoned, permanent plantings lost, livestock sold off, feed bought in, and two irrigation companies shutting down channels early.

SOURCE: The Land, NSW, published Thursday, May 24, 2007.