Northern Basin First Flush Assessment

Darling River at The Coach and Horses Campground Wilga Station near Wilcannia.

The Independent Panel’s final report which assesses management of the 2020 northern Murray-Darling Basin first flush event has been released.

In March 2020, the NSW Government appointed an Independent Panel to assess the management of the 2020 Northern Basin First Flush event. The final report was submitted on 7 September 2020, and an overview of the final report is also available.

The assessment was commissioned after water restrictions were imposed on water take from rivers and floodplains to manage flows across the Northern NSW Murray-Darling Basin, following significant rainfall across NSW and Queensland in January and February 2020.

Independent Panel members Dr Wendy Craik and Greg Claydon have made recommendations to improve management of future first flush events, including with regard to:

  • the communication of water restrictions to water users and the public
  • decision making processes, including matters considered when applying the public interest test; and
  • how prepared the Department of Planning, Industry & Environment - Water, WaterNSW and the Natural Resources Access Regulator were to manage the event.

As part of the assessment, the Independent Panel sought information from relevant state and federal agencies, a non-government water user reference group with representatives from industry, environmental interests, Aboriginal communities and Councils, and carried out two rounds of public consultation.

The NSW Government will consider the Panel’s report and detailed recommendations and prepare a response by the end of November.

Terms of Reference

The Terms of Reference (PDF 538.6 KB) for the assessment are available for download.

Public consultation

The Independent Panel sought feedback from the public during initial public consultation carried out from 11 May to 7 June 2020.

This feedback was incorporated into a draft report which was publicly exhibited from 13 July to 9 August 2020. During that period, a webinar was held where the Independent Panel presented their draft findings and recommendations and answered questions from the public.

The final report incorporates feedback from written submissions on the draft report provided during the second public consultation period.

The draft report and its executive summary, webinar information and feedback received during the public consultation periods, is available below.

Water User Reference Group

A water user reference group was set up to provide advice to the Panel, particularly on improvements to communications with water users and the public. The group met on seven occasions with the Independent Panel throughout the assessment. Communiques of each meeting are published below.

Meeting communiques:

Further information about the first flush event

  • Targets and Principles – information about the triggers and principles (PDF 363.2 KB) which were used to determine when and how to apply temporary water restrictions to river and overland flows from January to the end of March 2020 in the Northern NSW Basin.
  • Fact sheets on Northern Basin and Barwon-Darling restrictions on river and overland flows – a series of fact sheets explaining the application of the temporary water restrictions throughout the first flush event and a list of the exemptions that applied.
  • Overview of the outcomes of the Northern Basin restrictionsinformation on some of the initial benefits of how the first flush was managed.
  • Assessment of take and protection during first flush flows in the Northern Basin – a report (PDF 1.5 MB) including the water balance for the first flush event.