NSW Legislative Council inquiry into floodplain harvesting

Implementation dates for the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy have changed following disallowance of amendments to the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018 in 2020, 2021 and 2022, that defined the process for issuing floodplain harvesting licences and the measurement requirements on those licences. More recently, there was a disallowance of Water Management (General) Amendment (Floodplain Harvesting Access Licences) Regulation 2022 that defined the process for issuing floodplain harvesting licences on 21 September 2022. The amendments to the regulation defining measurement requirements for licences was not part of the disallowance on 21 September 2022.

The disallowance does not alter the validity of floodplain harvesting licences already determined for eligible water users in the NSW Border Rivers and Gwydir Valleys. The licensing framework commenced in these valleys on 15 August 2022 and this latest disallowance has no effect on the requirements to measure and manage floodplain harvesting in these valley.

The department is committed to this important reform to ensure limits on take and measurement requirements, for floodplain harvesting in all Northern Basin valleys. Licensing will bring floodplain harvesting into line with other forms of take, enabling monitoring and management and providing certainty in the provision of water required for the environment and other water users.

The Select Committee on Floodplain Harvesting was established on 23 June 2021 to inquire and report on the Government’s management of floodplain harvesting. Read the Select Committee’s final report.

On 24 May 2022, the NSW Government published its official response to the Select Committee’s inquiry into floodplain harvesting.

The NSW Government agrees or partially agrees with 20 of the 25 recommendations made by the Committee. More than half of these are already broadly consistent with existing floodplain harvesting policy.

Many of the recommendations go beyond floodplain harvesting and are already being addressed through other initiatives including regional water strategies, water sharing plans and Basin Plan programs.

Of the recommendations that the government does not support or only partially supports, it found many to be redundant, outside the scope of the policy or its authority, needing further community consultation, or simply unable to be realised until licensing is introduced.

Read the response–NSW Government response to select committee on floodplain harvestings report

Rules for floodplain harvesting licences to protect first flush flows

To acknowledge the connectivity between the Barwon-Darling valley and the northern inland tributary valleys, and ensure flows are temporarily protected from floodplain harvesting following a dry period, a series of access rules will be applied to floodplain harvesting access licences.

To protect ‘first flush’ flows during or following a dry period, an access rule will be applied to floodplain harvesting licences in the NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source, Gwydir Regulated River Water Source, and Macquarie and Cudgegong Regulated Rivers Water Source. This will prevent water being taken whenever flows are below local in-valley flow targets and there is less than 195 gigalitres (GL) stored in the Menindee Lakes system. This access rule ceases to apply whenever local in-valley flow targets, shown in the table below, are forecast to be met.

Local in-valley flow targets will also be applied in the Lower Namoi Regulated River Water Source and Barwon-Darling Unregulated River Water Source. However, these are yet to be finalised.

Water source Local in-valley flow targets
NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source A flow event of at least 3,000 ML/day in the Barwon River at Mungindi gauge (416 001)
Gwydir Regulated River Water Source A flow event of at least:
  • 550 ML/day in Gil Gil Creek at Galloway gauge (416 052)
  • 250 ML/day in Gingham Channel at Teralba gauge (418 074)
  • 250 ML/day in the Gwydir River (South Arm) at d/s Tyreel Offtake Regulator (418 063)
  • 1,200 ML/day in the Mehi River at Near Collarenebri gauge (418 055)
  • 300 ML/day in the Thalaba Creek at Belarre gauge (418 091).
Macquarie and Cudgegong Regulated Rivers Water Source A combined flow event of at least 3,400 ML/day in the Marebone Break at downstream regulator gauge (421 088) and Macquarie River at downstream Marebone Weir gauge (421 090)