Independent NSW MP Justin Field has slammed NSW Water Minister Kevin Anderson for an act of “political bastardry” after the NSW Government began issuing floodplain harvesting licences to northern basin Irrigators despite ongoing objections from the Legislative Council. Mr Field flagged he will move to disallow the enabling regulations when the Legislative Council sits this week.
Mr Field was responding to media reports, citing irrigation industry sources, that some irrigators in the Gwydir and Border Rivers catchments have received decisions on their floodplain harvesting licences.
The regulations enabling billions of dollars of floodplain harvesting water licences to be issued were introduced by former Water Minister Melinda Pavey in December, just days before she was dumped by cabinet.
Similar regulations have been twice disallowed by the Legislative Council with these new regulations likely to be considered during the first sitting of the year this week.
Independent NSW MP Justin Field said, "It is an act of political bastardry and extraordinary bad faith for the Government to issue floodplain harvesting licences before these new regulations can face the scrutiny of the Parliament.
“The National Party clearly has a plan but are keeping downstream communities in the dark. Minister Anderson needs to come clean and explain how and why he is now signing off on FPH licences despite clear objections from the parliament and water communities.
"I'm extremely concerned that this decision could leave the taxpayer on the hook for compensation if future Governments have to wind back those licences to ensure downstream communities and the environment get their fair share."
“I will give notice today of a motion to disallow the floodplain harvesting regulations.
“Stakeholders have consistently called for floodplain harvesting licencing rules that come with a commitment to ensure downstream, cultural and environmental needs are met before floodplain harvesting is allowed. Without those protections in law, there is a real risk these licences lock in unsustainable water harvesting into the future.
“There is broad agreement that floodplain harvesting should be regulated, licenced and measured but the current rules around this type of take leave downstream communities and the environment carrying the risk. The Legislative Council should disallow the regulations and force the Government to amend these rules,” Mr Field said.