Independent NSW MP Justin Field has slammed a decision by the NSW Government to provide temporary authority for farmers to direct floodwaters currently moving across the state's northern floodplains into dams and storages, robbing the parched rivers of an important first flush and failing to maximise the opportunity for floodwaters to reach the Lower Darling.
The Approval to take under Temporary Water Restrictions order issued under delegation on 10 February, allows water to be taken for the purpose of floodplain harvesting in parts of the Gwydir, Namoi and Barwon-Darling floodplains.
A temporary restriction on floodplain harvesting had been ordered on 7 February to continue until the end of the month but was lifted for some areas on 10 February to allow floodplain water harvesting for 3 days.
Many of the works used to capture or redirect water on floodplains have never been formally approved with a prolonged policy process to determine approval and licensing of floodplain harvesting not due to be completed until 2021.
Mr Field said, "Basically we've got a free for all in the Northern Basin when it comes to floodplain flows being directed into private storages. This first flush is critical for the starved rivers and wetlands across the system and should have been given a chance to reach as far down the system as it can.
"Instead we're going to see some of that water held back for private use and the reality is that many of the works to divert that water have never been approved and aren't licensed.
"The Water Minister issued a restriction on Friday but by Monday it had been lifted. The Minister should explain why this has been done? After this even the Minister needs to make clear how many landholders have taken advantage of this order and how much water has been captured as a result.
"The integrity of water management in NSW requires transparency and accountability and those two things are sadly lacking in NSW," Mr Field said.