Independent NSW MP Justin Field will move on Tuesday to disallow a floodplain harvesting regulation which, if disallowed, will put into question the legality of highly controversial floodplain harvesting practices in the Northern Basin and may pave the way for investigations of illegal water take by NSW water watchdog, NRAR.
On Tuesday, the disallowance debate and vote in the Legislative Council will follow the publication of a report from the Regulation Committee that inquired into floodplain harvesting rules, their legal basis and their impact on irrigators and the environment.
A vote to disallow the regulation threatens to force the NSW Government to address critical question marks around the legality of current and historic extraction of water on the floodplain and how plans to licence such take will impact Lower Darling and Southern Basin irrigators, as well as NSW’s commitment to sustainable water use under the Basin Plan.
Both the Labor Opposition, the Greens, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party have raised concerns about the regulation which could provide the numbers to disallow the regulation.
The regulation was hurriedly introduced on 7 February 2020 in advance of a rain event across the Northern Basin.
Evidence to the Regulation Committee about the level of floodplain harvesting take from the Northern Basin was hotly contested, with Southern Basin irrigators providing information that suggested the take was as much as 30 times that of the volumes provided by the Government.
Independent NSW MP Justin Field said, “This is about the future of the Murray Darling Basin and the communities that rely on it. Floodplain harvesting is inciting anger across the Basin with genuine concerns over its legality, the level of take and the efficacy of the data behind Melinda Pavey and the NSW Nationals’ licensing plans.
“If we don’t get this right, the NSW Government risks handing out billions of dollars worth of floodplain harvesting licences for unapproved and potentially illegal works that future generations will be forced to buy back to save our rivers. Premier Berejiklian cannot afford another costly environmental disaster from the NSW National Party.
“The Legislative Council should perform its role as the House of review and disallow this regulation. It’s legal basis is questionable and the long-term impacts from providing an open ended broad exemption threatens to lock in a growing and unsustainable level of water take from the Darling,” Mr Field said.
The debate and vote on the disallowance motion will likely occur late on Tuesday evening.