Independent NSW MLC Justin Field has labelled plans by the NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey to move a rescission motion to reinstate a controversial floodplain harvesting regulation as pure political gamesmanship and called for leadership on water policy.
The move follows a historic win in the Legislative Council last month, which saw all sides of politics come together, including Labor, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, the Greens and One Nation, to vote to disallow a regulation that provided legal exemptions to floodplain harvesting and would have opened the door to allowing unsustainable take of billions of litres of water from the State’s North West, threatening the health of the Darling River and downstream communities.
Debate and vote on the rescission motion will likely not occur until the November sittings of the Legislative Council.
Independent NSW MLC Justin Field, who moved the successful disallowance motion, said, “I said at the time of the disallowance that the decision provided the opportunity for a reset, time for the different stakeholders to sit down and resolve the disputes over definitions and volumes. Instead of leadership and discussion, we’ve got political gamesmanship from Melinda Pavey in an effort to further drive a divide between Northern and Southern Basin irrigators.
“The Minister’s claims that the disallowance has created legal uncertainty for farmers is disappointing hypocrisy as she refused to provide any legal justification for the exemption regulation when it was considered by the Parliament’s Regulation Committee.
“It is curious to me that the Minister is claiming farmers could face legal action without the exemption regulation in place. This was not raised in the inquiry nor was it an issue during rain events in 2016 when the exemption regulation was not in place.
“The only difference seems to be that now the NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator exists and there is concern among some that water law will finally be enforced in NSW.
“This points to a deliberate and sustained effort by the NSW National Party to kick the can down the road on the licencing of floodplain harvesting and the exemption regulation was designed to do that again.
“The Government has acknowledged that floodplain harvesting has increased in the Northern Basin over the last decade and is in excess of the basin caps. Allowing this level of unsustainable take to continue without a licencing regime in place is totally unacceptable.
“Instead of trying tricky political manoeuvres, Minister Pavey should be working to resolve the differences between stakeholders and finalise the licensing and measuring program.
“If there are specific legal challenges for landholders to comply with the law as written let’s talk about that, but a general exemption is totally unacceptable and I am calling on the majority of Legislative Council members who voted for the disallowance to reject this rescission motion.