Independent assessment of management of first flush in the Northern Basin to begin

Media release | 16 April 2020

An independent panel will begin an assessment of the management of the first flush event in the Northern Basin earlier this year, the result of the first significant rainfall event in the region since 2016.

Panel members Dr Wendy Craik and Greg Claydon will carry out the assessment which will analyse management of the first flush by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, WaterNSW and the Natural Resources Access Regulator.

Department Secretary Jim Betts said the independent assessment panel brings together expertise in water, public policy and natural resources management.

“Both Greg Claydon and Dr Wendy Craik are uniquely qualified to complete this assessment. Both have years’ experience in their fields of expertise and will provide a clear-eyed and thorough assessment,” he said.

“They will work closely with representatives across government, including the Murray Darling Basin Authority and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office.

“Crucially, we’ll be inviting the community, industry, environmental groups and Aboriginal representatives to provide their feedback also.

“A water user reference group will also be established, which will include licence holder representatives, to advise on how we can better communicate restrictions, particularly when these events happen over multiple catchments.”

In mid-January and early February this year, northern NSW experienced significant rainfall following record drought conditions and a series of temporary water restrictions were put in place to manage first flows and secure water for critical human needs.

“For the first time in NSW’s history, the department was able to restrict floodplain harvesting in the Northern Basin. As a result, we’re seeing large inflows to Menindee Lakes and the Lower Darling, inflows we haven’t seen since 2016,” Mr Betts said.

“Now, we need to ensure we have effective embargo protocols in place and a clear process for applying and lifting restrictions for all water users.

“This assessment will help us improve how we manage restrictions in future, particularly for floodplain harvesting, so we can continue to balance the needs of communities, industry and the environment.”

Public submissions will be initially sought on the terms of reference, and then again on the draft report. View the Terms of Reference for the assessment.

A final report will be provided to the Government by the end of August.

Dr Wendy Craik

Wendy has over 25 years' experience in senior roles in public policy, including as Commissioner of the Productivity Commission, Chief Executive of the Murry-Darling Basin Commission, President of the National Competition Council, Chair of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and Australian Rural Leadership Foundation, Executive Director of the National Farmers' Federation and Executive Officer of the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority.

She has been a director on a number of boards. Wendy is currently the Chair of the Climate Change Authority and a board member of the Reserve Bank of Australia and Australian Farm Institute.

Wendy was invested as a Member of the Order of Australia in 2007 for service to the natural resource sector of the economy, particularly in the areas of fisheries, marine ecology and management of water reform, and for contributions to policies affecting rural and regional Australia.

Greg Claydon

Greg Claydon has extensive water industry and natural resources management knowledge, experience and achievements, built on his roles as a senior executive with Queensland and Western Australia state government water, environment and natural resources agencies. He is recognised at state, national and international levels for his work in water and natural resources reforms.

Greg has been actively involved in several interjurisdictional water and natural resources initiatives, including those covering the Council of Australian Governments (CoAG), the Murray-Darling Basin, the Queensland/New South Wales Border Rivers, the Lake Eyre Basin, the Great Artesian Basin and the Ord River Basin. He also has specific professional experience in the design, construction, and management of irrigation, water supply and drainage schemes in tropical, sub-tropical and semi-arid environments. Greg has been a director on a number of boards and co-led an independent review of the NSW floodplain harvesting policy implementation in 2019.

Greg was awarded a Public Service Medal (PSM) in 2009 by the Governor-General of Australia for outstanding public service in natural resources management and water reform.