Independent NSW MP Justin Field has called on NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey to work with all concerned MPs and stakeholders to build a consensus on how floodplain harvesting can be regulated in NSW while protecting downstream communities and the environment.
The call follows a decision of the NSW Legislative Council today to disallow new regulations, introduced on 30 April, that would have enabled billions of dollars worth of licences to harvest flood waters across the NSW Northern Basin.
Today, the motion to block the operation of three floodplain harvesting regulations was supported by Labor, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, the Greens and Animal Justice Party. This followed a similar rejection by the Parliament last November of a regulation to exempt floodplain harvesting from water licensing requirements.
Independent NSW MLC Justin Field said, “I welcome the support of the Legislative Council for this disallowance.
“I realise we all come to this debate with a different emphasis, but there is a shared objective to ensure the rules around floodplain harvesting are fair and transparent and can deliver for downstream communities and the environment. That is not currently the case.
“I have been clear with Water Minister Melinda Pavey and the irrigator groups that before billions of dollars of floodplain harvesting licences are handed out, clear targets for downstream flows must be set in law to ensure that the other water licence holders, downstream communities and the environment get their fair share of these flows. I’m prepared to work with them and the Government to achieve that.
“Without these targets, the environment and downstream communities end up carrying the risk if the Government gets the modelling or rules wrong and as we continue to see falling inflows into our catchments as a result of climate change. That’s an unacceptable situation.
“The community and the Parliament has cause to not trust the National Party when it comes to water. The ICAC illustrated why we cannot give a blank cheque to the NSW Government when it found “a repeated tendency on the part of the NSW Government’s water agencies to adopt an approach to water management that was unduly focused on the interests of the irrigation industry” and that the Government had “failed to give effect to the legislated priorities for water sharing” which prioritise the environment over extraction.
“I have had positive conversations with the irrigation peak body and I think there is a consensus to be found on setting clear downstream targets to ensure flood waters are fairly allocated across the basin.
“It’s time the Minister worked to bring these groups, other stakeholders and all interested MPs and Parties together to work towards that outcome. It’s untenable that the division around this issue be allowed to continue.”