Improving floodplain connections

Fledged ibis (Threskiornis moluccus) on the wing, Gingham Wetlands.

Changes to policy and legislative requirements for floodplains over the past 30 years have resulted in unapproved flood works in the northern NSW Murray–Darling Basin.

Unapproved works can alter the flow of floodwater, causing social, economic, ecological and cultural impacts. Examples of these works include levees, roads, dams, channels and block banks.

Developed under the Healthy Floodplains Project, statutory floodplain management plans set out the assessment and approval requirements for flood works that consider both local and cumulative impacts to the environment, Aboriginal cultural heritage, and downstream water users.

The department develops floodplain management plans and WaterNSW assesses flood work applications.

About the program

The Improving Floodplain Connections program is part of Stage 2 of the Healthy Floodplains Project. Jointly funded by the Commonwealth Government ($10.196 million) and the NSW Government ($1.08 million), it will bring priority unapproved flood works in the northern Basin into compliance with the requirements of floodplain management plans. This will improve connectivity and benefit the health of flood-dependent ecosystems and Aboriginal cultural assets.

The program will target unapproved flood works in 110 priority areas across the northern Basin. This may include the removal, relocation or modification of the unapproved flood works in these areas.

NSW Government agencies are collaborating on the program. It will be led by the department’s Water division; working in partnership with government agencies for Crown Lands; Environment and Heritage; Agriculture; Fisheries; the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR); and WaterNSW. Delivery across NSW agencies will improve the effectiveness, efficiency and value for money of the program.

Here is a diagram illustrating the logic which has informed the design of the Improving Floodplain Connections program. If you require assistance reading this diagram, please contact 1300 081 047 or

Map location

Study area and identified hotspot areas to be targeted in the Improving Floodplains Connections program.

The program is expected to start in January 2022 and end in mid-2024.

This program will accelerate normal business as usual operations allowing the outcomes to be delivered by mid-2024. Without this, the work would not have been achieved until after 2035.

Priority unapproved flood works

Prioritisation is at the heart of the program. Financial resources are limited and need to be used where there is the best return on public investment.

The identified 110 areas were prioritised by the department’s Water group, in collaboration with the Environment and Heritage group, using assessment criteria to score and rank areas based on hydraulic, ecological and cultural impacts that flood works were causing.

Remediating unapproved flood works

The NSW government will assist with consultation, functional design and assessment of impacts for the unapproved flood works. The landholder will be responsible for undertaking the required modifications or removal of unapproved flood works, overseen by the Natural Resources Access Regulator.

This program complements the volumetric controls being introduced through the implementation of the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy. Unapproved flood works will not be authorised for floodplain harvesting.