Action of the Week

The NSW government has been trying for a few years to legalise and licence the giving away of water that would otherwise go to the rivers, the environment and downstream communities. Floodplain harvesting is the practice by rural landholders of setting up levees, walls and dams to capture water on their properties during rainfall rather than let it flow across the land to the river system.

Why a parliamentary inquiry?

The NSW government has been blocked three times by the upper house from allowing this additional take of environmental water. The river system is in crisis because of the rorting of the Murray Darling Basin Plan and the rise of floodplain harvesting. The regulations would have allowed big irrigation companies to take the water at great cost to the environment and communities further down the rivers.

There is now and upper house inquiry on the floodplain harvesting and related issues, made up of MPs from the major parties, the Greens and the Shooters Fishers & Farmers. They are taking submissions until 13 August and will have public hearings in September.

Some points to consider

We are not experts on water management and regulation in NSW but we think it’s important to speak up for environmental water anyway to let the pollies know that people expect them to act to protect our precious water supplies. A few ideas:

  1. Floodplain harvesting has been going on for years although it’s more than likely illegal. It takes much needed water from the environment and towns downstream, especially in the Far West.
  2. We are not in drought now, but we’ve had 7 in the last 20 years and we know there’s more to come. All modelling on sustainable extraction from the Murray Darling should be based on the realities of climate change and future droughts as well as the need for water and food security. We need more water for the rivers and surrounding land, not less.
  3. First Nations people need cultural flows in the rivers for their spiritual, cultural, social and economic survival. They looked after the rivers for thousands of years. For all our sakes the government needs to listen to their plan to protect the water, land and biodiversity and seek their help in finding solutions.

Water management and regulation in NSW has a tragic and conflicted history. Most people are not across the detail but it’s very clear that the root cause of the conflicts is that too much water is being extracted and our country is changing and rivers dying because of it. Floodplain harvesting should not be allowed to make this situation worse.

We are in a climate crisis and need to call out fallacious arguments that it’s people and jobs vs the environment – we cannot survive without healthy rivers and sustainable farming.

MAKE A SUBMISSION by clicking on the box marked Submission


Nature Conservation Council video – What is floodplain harvesting?

Nature Conservation Council media release about the inquiry  Floodplain harvesting inquiry is a chance to clear the air after government’s failed floodwater giveaway

Photo: The paddle vessel Jandra on the Darling River at Bourke in 2017

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