Independent NSW MP Justin Field has slammed the introduction of new floodplain harvesting laws as a serious breach of faith that prioritises corporate interests over the interests of downstream communities, Aboriginal people and the environment. He has indicated he will move to disallow them when NSW Parliament returns next week.
New regulations were introduced today to allow floodplain harvesting licences to be issued across Northern NSW following public consultation late last year. The regulations establish the rules for the granting of licences to harvest flood waters, requirements for measuring and also create new exemptions to allow some rainfall runoff to be taken without licence.
In 2020 an exemption regulation was introduced to allow irrigators to floodplain harvest without a licence leading to a war of words between irrigators and downstream communities and a debate in the NSW Parliament that ultimately disallowed the laws.
Independent NSW MLC Justin Field said, “These new regulations make a mockery of the will of the Parliament and the public concern around floodplain harvesting. I’m calling on my colleagues in the Legislative Council to send these regulations back to Water Minister, Melinda Pavey, with a big red ‘F’.
“Melinda Pavey has failed to listen to the concerns presented to her in the disallowance debate and the public consultation process. The issues that have been consistently raised about this type of take, the uncertainty over the volumes of water and modelling, the need for first flush water to make it downstream communities - none of this has been resolved by these new regulations.
“I have been clear with the Government that any licencing for floodplain harvesting must come with a commitment to ensure downstream and environment needs are met before floodplain harvesting is allowed. Without those protections in law I will not support floodplain harvesting licences being issued.
“The Government isn’t taking seriously the concerns of downstream communities, irrigators in the Southern Basin, Indigenous communities or environmental stakeholders.
“If we don’t get this right, the NSW Government risks handing out billions of dollars worth of unsustainable floodplain harvesting licences that future generations will be forced to buy back to save our rivers.”
The regulations would give effect to management rules being established for the five Northern Basin rivers. One of the most controversial rules relates to the ability of floodplain licence holders to carry over harvesting entitlements not taken in a given year. The draft rules provide for as much as 500% of licenced volumes to be taken.
“It is absolutely outrageous that the Government would allow irrigators to take up to 500% of their licenced volumes in any one year but that is what the rules as drafted will allow. It will mean that once again the greedy corporate irrigators will get to fill their dams before any water reaches downstream communities and the environment. It’s not good enough.
“We simply can’t afford another costly environmental disaster from the NSW National Party,” Mr Field said.