Response to Sunraysia Daily – letter to editor

Statement | 14 June 2018


Your recent article, ‘Lower-Darling grower slams floodplains proposal: Worse than theft’ (12 June) contains a number of assertions that need to be corrected.

The suggestion that Northern NSW farmers will be allowed to ‘harvest water with illegally built earthworks’ is not correct. Illegally built earthworks are not considered as part of the floodplain harvesting licencing process. Only approved flood works are eligible for consideration under the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy.

Similarly, assertions that the Department ‘...has consulted the public on plans to formalise farmers take of water from floodplains' and ‘Debate around the inclusion of rainfall was a bit of a diversion’ miss the point of recent community consultation.

All surface water diversions within the Murray-Darling Basin, including floodplain harvesting, were ‘capped’ in 1995 by a Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council Agreement. The result is that these limits are reflected in law through the NSW Water Sharing Plans.

The recent community consultation process to which you refer in your article did not involve these statutory limits, which have been in place for 23 years. Instead the community consultation focussed on proposed refinements to ensure that the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy is functioning as intended, delivering a robust licencing regime that will ensure compliance with these statutory water take limits.

Finally the suggestion that 'Proposed formalisation of decades of water take from the floodplain had a greater impact on the security of water in the lower reaches of the Darling' is misleading.

It is true that in some areas of the Northern Basin there has been growth in floodplain harvesting infrastructure causing current floodplain harvesting extractions in these areas to increase above the existing limits in NSW Water Sharing Plans.

However, the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy does not support this and its implementation will function to restrict these current diversions so that they return back to the statutory limits. Once floodplain harvesting licenses are in place the Natural Resource Access Regulator will ensure compliance with these limits.

The improvements and amendments to the existing NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy will deliver an even better outcome for the communities of the Murray Darling Basin. In particular, it will ensure that the volume of floodplain harvesting occurring in the Northern Basin is compliant with the law, protecting and in some cases enhancing outcomes in the lower reaches of the Darling for the benefit of the communities that reside there.

It is unfortunate that we have had to correct the record on these matters. The Department of Industry would have been happy to inform your article - however, we were not contacted for comment prior to publication.