Mortons Creek Water Source

Temporary restriction notice Temporary Water Restriction (Mortons Creek Water Source) Order No.2 2020
Licences affected Access licences holders who take from the Mortons Creek Water Source (including the upriver alluvial sediments within the Mortons Creek Water Source) - recording of take in logbooks required.
Date restriction started11 December 2020
Date restriction ends 31 March 2021
Status Current

Reason for Decision

Temporary Water Restriction (Mortons Creek Water Source) Order No.2 2020

Background

On 20 December 2019, a temporary water restriction was placed on access licences holders who take from the Hastings Unregulated and Upriver Alluvial Water Sources and access licences holders who take from the Hastings River Coastal Floodplain Alluvial Groundwater Source. This restriction expired on 30 June 2020.

The temporary water restriction was required to control unregulated river and aquifer access licence extractions in these water sources, to maintain water supply for basic landholder rights, and Stock and Domestic and Local Water utility licence holders including supply for Port Macquarie.

The Hastings valley was the last to transfer from the Water Act 1912 to the Water Management Act 2000. The Water Sharing Plan for the Hastings Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2019 (the water sharing plan) commenced on the 1 July 2019 and includes updated cease to pump conditions. The new cease to pump conditions replaced original licence conditions that were poorly described and/or did not adequately protect low flows for basic landholder rights and the environment.

Before the new access conditions and cease to pump thresholds could become enforceable, they needed to be imposed and licence holders notified. The temporary restriction addressed the issue of no enforceable conditions by restricting take by the unregulated river and aquifer licences in these water sources in accordance with the water sharing plan.

Except in relation to the Mortons Creek Water Source, the mandatory licence conditions for the water sharing plan are now enforceable.

Before mandatory licence conditions for Mortons Creek Water Source come into effect, amendments to the water sharing plan need to be made, then conditions need to be imposed and licence holders notified.

Amendments to the water sharing plan are needed because the rules restricting water take from upriver alluvial sediments for a 24 hour period after a Very Low Flow (VLF) Class event unintentionally apply to all access licence categories. The rule should only apply to apply to aquifer access licences that have arisen from a conversion from an unregulated river access licence and all other categories of access licences if they nominate a water supply work that is capable of being used to take water from the upriver alluvial sediments.

It was expected that the amendments to the water sharing plan would be made and licence holders notified by December 2020. It is now expected this will be completed by March 2021.

A temporary water restriction for Mortons Creek was made to  replace the Temporary Water Restriction (Hastings Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources) Order 2019 which expired on 30 June 2020. The Mortons Creek temporary water restriction reflects the new rules that will come into effect when the WSP is amended, and expired on 12 December 2020. As the amendment of the water sharing plan has been delayed, the Mortons Creek temporary water restriction has been redrafted unchanged except that it is now proposed to be in effect until 31 March 2021. This duration can be adjusted by amending or repealing the order as required.

Maintaining restrictions to licence holders in Mortons Creek Water Source, via this remade restriction order, will ensure that cease take conditions are in place for this water source and water sharing arrangements are maintained to protect the water source. The restriction will also ensure equitable sharing between water users.

Reasons for decisions

Temporary water restriction – section 324

Section 324 of the Water Management Act 2000 (the Act) allows the Minister or delegate to order that temporary water restrictions within a water source(s) are to have effect for a specified period, if these restrictions are determined to be in the public interest.

Examples of the public interest referred to in section 324(1) include but are not limited to “to cope with a water shortage, threat to public health or safety, or to manage water for environmental purposes”.

Based on the information outlined in the Background section above, there is a public interest in making an order to restrict take in the Mortons Creek Water Source so that cease to pump restrictions, as intended when the Water Sharing Plan was developed, are in place. This provides equitable sharing between licence holders and protects the environment.

Accordingly, the section 324 order has been remade to continue to apply new cease to pump conditions in the Mortons Creek Water Source until such time that amendments to the Water Sharing Plan for the Hastings Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2019 have been made, and updated licence conditions imposed and notified.

Allan Raine

Acting Director - Planning Implementation

11 December 2020


Temporary Water Restriction (Mortons Creek Water Source) Order 2020