Media Release


ALP, minor parties vote for uncontrolled floodplain harvesting to continue

The ALP and minor parties have voted for unregulated, uncontrolled and unmeasured floodplain harvesting to continue by disallowing regulations to reduce, licence and measure the practice.

“Our legal advice from a leading law firm is unequivocal: disallowing the regulations to reduce, licence and measure floodplain harvesting means continued uncontrolled and unlimited floodplain harvesting that is not subject to rules or metering obligations.”

“The losers will be the environment and downstream users. The beneficiaries will be those who can continue floodplain harvesting with no limits or metering requirements.”

“As an industry, this is not a win we want although we know some irrigators are rejoicing at this this outcome. We have a responsibility as an industry, and so did our elected representatives, to limit and meter floodplain harvesting.”

“Today, the Labor Party and minor parties abrogated their responsibility, despite ample opportunity over the last few months to suggest changes in the regulations to address their claimed concerns.”

“Instead, they chose to disallow the regulations, a reckless and irresponsible move putting politics being put before the environment and downstream users.”

These reforms have long had bipartisan support, after the policy was first introduced by Labor nearly two decades ago. A significant amount of taxpayers’ money has been expended to design the policy, scientifically investigate the policy and independently peer review the models. Today last-minute political games trumped two decades of science and work.

To be clear:

  • These regulations benefit the environment and downstream communities by reducing take to the 1994 Cap on diversions and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s Sustainable Diversion Limits.
  • DPIE-Water studies indicate positive environmental and downstream outcomes if floodplain harvesting is reduced through licensing and measurement.
  • These regulations cut back floodwater access by up to 30%, which has significant social and economic impacts on communities and towns. Individuals are facing up to two-thirds reduction in their historical take.


“We, like all other stakeholders, also want the Government to develop and refine rules to improve environmental and cultural connectivity during droughts and when droughts break,” said Ms Miller.

“Disallowing these regulations will not solve this problem as floodplain harvesting only occurs when it floods, when connectivity is not an issue as is clear with up to 950 billion litres making its way now into Menindee Lakes from the recent floods in the Gwydir and Border Rivers valleys.”

“The priority must be getting flood management safeguards into place through reducing, licencing and measuring floodplain harvesting, and getting on with the work to properly develop more drought management safeguards ready to improve connectivity in the next big dry.”

The ALP and minor parties have also left irrigators across the State in an impossible Catch 22 by disallowing the exemption on rainfall runoff from irrigated fields being treated as unlicensed water take.

Under their works approvals conditions, irrigators must keep rainfall runoff from irrigated fields on their properties to avoid potentially contaminated water entering rivers. Disallowing the rainfall runoff exemption means all irrigators are now vulnerable to NRAR charges.

“We would now welcome advice from the ALP and minor parties on which law they want irrigators to break? Harvestable rights do not cover rainfall runoff from irrigated fields, as this rights only applies small storages built for harvestable rights purposes,” said Ms Miller.

NSWIC’s legal advice is on our website. It clarifies that the status quo as: “There is no requirement for either an access licence to take water from the floodplain of for a works approval.”

The legal advice also outlines the implications of a disallowance to be:
“Extraction of water from the floodplain will continue to occur under the present arrangements; that is without the need for an access licence or a works approval and without any water sharing rules within the relevant water sharing plan to ensure that the extraction of water from the floodplain can be carried out below the long-term average annual extraction limit set by the relevant plan.”

NSWIC urges irrigators to obtain their own legal advice relevant to their individual situation.

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