Northern Basin First Flush Assessment

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

The NSW Government has appointed an independent panel to assess the management of the 2020 Northern Basin First Flush event.

The assessment has been commissioned after water restrictions were imposed to manage flows across the Northern NSW Basin rivers, including for floodplain harvesting, following significant rainfall across NSW and Queensland in January and February 2020.

Independent Panel members Dr Wendy Craik and Greg Claydon will make 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 Panel will seek information from relevant state and federal agencies.

The final report is expected to be received by the department by the end of August 2020.

Public consultation

Public feedback

Initial public feedback on the first flush event closed on 7 June 2020.

The Panel will seek further public feedback on the draft report in July 2020.

Terms of Reference

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

Water User Reference Group

A water user reference group has been set up to provide advice to the Panel, particularly on improvements to communications with water users and the public. The group will meet regularly with the Independent Panel throughout the assessment. The Water User Reference Group comprises the following representatives:

  • Mr Jim Cush, irrigation industry representative for Northern NSW tributaries
  • Mr Joe Robinson, irrigation industry representative for the Barwon-Darling
  • Ms Rachael Strachan, irrigation industry representative for the Lower-Darling
  • Mr Darren Raeck, local government representative for Northern NSW tributaries
  • Mr Jeff Sowiak, local government representative for the Barwon-Darling
  • Mr Greg Hill, local government representative for the Lower-Darling
  • Mr Malcom Talbot, Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations
  • Mr Kingsley Abdulla, Murray-Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations
  • Mr Derek Hardman, Barkandji, Native Title Group Aboriginal Corporation
  • Uncle Badger Bates, Barkandji, Native Title Group Aboriginal Corporation
  • Mr Justin McClure, Australian Floodplain Association
  • Ms Emma Carmody, Environmental Defender’s Office

If you would like to get in touch with your representative, please email

Communiques of each meeting will be published below once available.

Meeting communiqués:

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.