Improvement program for floodplain harvesting measurement and compliance
NSW is committed to delivering a transparent and high quality floodplain harvesting measurement and compliance framework that meets the recommendations of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority Compliance Review 2017 and the subsequent commitments made through the Murray-Darling Basin Compliance Compact 2018. The process has and will continue to involve consultation with a wide range of stakeholders throughout NSW.
Overcoming the difficulty of measuring floodplain harvesting take
Historically it has been difficult to accurately and reliably measure floodplain flows captured through the practice of floodplain harvesting. As part of the NSW Healthy Floodplains Project, there has been significant investment in data, satellite imagery and modelling over 6 years to more accurately understand what happens to floodplain flows that do not return to a river. Using the latest technology, the department will be able to calculate with greater accuracy historical and legitimate floodplain harvesting practices and take. Public confidence in the implementation of the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy is being bolstered through an Independent Peer Review. NSW will soon publish an Action Plan that details responses to each of the peer review recommendations and sets forward a process and timeframes for implementing the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy across the Northern Basin.
Because large volumes of water are associated with floodplain harvesting, it is important to have a robust, practical and effective measurement and compliance framework in place. This will enable better accounting and equitable sharing of limited water resources.
A commitment to working with industry and individuals across the Basin
Last year the department made a commitment to work together with industry and individuals across the Basin to make sure the measurement and compliance settings for floodplain harvesting are balanced. We made a promise that we would genuinely consider stakeholder feedback and make any necessary changes before a final strategy was approved by Government and implemented.
Public meetings on a draft Floodplain Harvesting Monitoring and Auditing Strategy were held between October and December 2018 and submissions invited from 26 November 2018 to 15 February 2019. Concerns raised during consultation and written submissions were all considered.
We’re listening to your concerns on the draft strategy
The draft strategy proposed a three year staged approach to improving the measurement of floodplain harvesting, initially requiring a minimum use of gauge boards and calibrated storage curves to measure changes in water volumes in on-farm water storages. The approach relied on the verification of self-reported data against multiple lines of evidence such as remote sensing to detect compliance breaches. An evaluation trigger within the approach was intended to signal change to new and improved technologies if required.
Whilst all participants were supportive of robust floodplain harvesting measurement and compliance, the draft strategy’s reporting requirements were considered by some to be too onerous to manage and administer and the checking of gauges during flood, unsafe. Others raised concerns that self-reporting would not effectively support compliance and that gauge boards were a simplistic and outdated technology.
Sharing feedback and the next steps forward
A consultation outcomes report on the draft Monitoring and Auditing Strategy will be publicly released by 31 August 2019. This document provides the department’s response to consultation feedback, including a summary of the responses received and details on proposed changes to the strategy as a result of this feedback. Stakeholder workshops will be held during September 2019 to provide an opportunity to discuss these changes with you.
The department will release a Floodplain Harvesting Measurement Strategy by December 2019 that will set a new course for improving the measurement and compliance of floodplain harvesting in NSW. The floodplain harvesting measurement strategy will be operational prior to the release of floodplain harvesting licences.
Ongoing regulation of floodplain harvesting in accordance with the Strategy will be the responsibility of the Natural Resources Access Regulator. WaterNSW will be responsible for the accounting and billing associated with floodplain harvesting.