The Central Coast Chamber of Commerce has thrown its weight behind farmers in the Dial Blythe Irrigation Scheme who want to take control of the scheme’s management.

 The monthly meeting of the chamber on Wednesday night passed a motion to support the 50 farmers in the group, who have been lobbying the Legislative Council to return management to the farmers so they can  reduce costs and become more efficient.

 The scheme is managed by Tasmanian Irrigation but farmers  are saying they are not getting value as higher than expected input costs make it too costly to grow anything but high return crops.

 “It was originally designed so farmers could be more productive through irrigation for low value fodder crops and pasture management but this is now unaffordable,” farmers’ group spokesman Ben Hiscutt, of Howth, told the chamber meeting.

 The scheme was constructed in 2014 and became operational in 2015 through $9.06m funding from the Federal Government, $1.96m from the State Government and $3.4m investment from the farmers who subscribe to the scheme.

 Farmers’ group chairman Damien Carpenter said farmers were charged $103.90 a megalitre annually, whether they used their quota or not, as well as $70.90 a megalitre for water actually used.

 He said that in 2015/16 the farmers drew 1702 megalitres but last financial year this dropped to 791 megalitres because of the high rates and charges.

 “As an example, the scheme water adds $226 to the cost per tonne of pasture, turning the cheapest fodder source into the most expensive fodder on the farm,” Mr Carpenter said.

 The farmers also want to extend the water delivery season, which is currently from December to March. They say the delivery season is too short and should be extended to give irrigators more opportunity to use their full entitlement.

 The farmers are in a Catch 22 position as they need to engage a consultant to guide them through the self-management process.

 “The pathway to self-management is not clear to us, which would cost between $40,000 to $60,000, but Tasmanian Irrigation  will not give us access to profits generated by the scheme over the past two seasons,” Mr Carpenter said.

The Central Coast Chamber of Commerce will seek further support for the farmers in their lobby bid from the Central Coast Council.

 Chamber president Nathan Kelly said farmers played a huge role in Central Coast industry and were integral in the success of the region.

 “It is important we support them in their endeavours along with all other business in the region,” he told the meeting.

 The chamber executive will meet with the Mayor, Jan Bonde, and general manager Sandra Ayton next week to discuss this and other chamber issues.