Increased harvestable rights to bring greater water security to coastal landholders

Media release | 26 October 2021

The NSW Government has today taken an historic step to help coastal farmers produce more and better prepare for drought and bushfire by allowing greater water capture through an increase in harvestable rights.

Coastal farmers and landholders can currently store 10 per cent of the rain that falls on their properties, yet they will soon be able to better drought-proof their properties as the NSW Government increases their harvestable right to 30 per cent.

Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said these changes would improve water security for property owners and assist with reducing bushfire risk for coastal towns.

“The NSW Eastern Seaboard has some of Australia’s richest soil, making it a producer’s dream with the production of dairy, beef cattle, macadamias, potatoes and tomatoes contributing billions to the NSW GDP,” Mrs Pavey said.

“For our farmers on the coast this is just common sense for our communities. The increase came after the NSW Government undertook a long overdue review which included hydrological modelling and broad community consultation.

“We saw too many situations during the 2019/20 bushfire season where despite being in high rainfall areas, firefighters were unable to source water from nearby locations. By raising the harvestable right to allow more water to be stored across the landscape, we will be better prepared as a State for future disasters.”

Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead said an increase in harvestable rights to 30 per cent means landholders can store more water for domestic and stock use and agriculture, allowing some farming operations to continue for longer, protecting local jobs and boosting local economies.

“The change means many landholders in coastal catchments will be able to capture more water, while balancing the needs of the environment and downstream communities”, Mr Bromhead said.

Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh said to prepare for future droughts , landholders need be able to capture water during wet periods to get them through those very tough, dry times.

“It’s devastating to see the impact of drought on our towns. By holding more water in the wetter years, producers will be able to get through longer droughts and retain their staff growing the food from these regions we’ve all come to love,” Mr Singh said.

Mrs Pavey said the NSW Government will be undertaking detailed assessments of each individual coastal catchment over the next year to confirm the new limit is appropriate at a local level.

To balance this with the needs of the environment and downstream water users, water use will be restricted to domestic, stock and some agriculture uses, and farm dams will still only be allowed on first or second order streams.

These new rules will come into effect in early 2022 and the Natural Resources Access Regulator will enforce the strict rules.

More information on coastal harvestable rights and the changes are available at https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water/licensing-trade/landholder-rights/harvestable-rights-dams/increase