The Upper House Inquiry into Floodplain Harvesting recommendations would duplicate checks
and balances already in place and result in a weaker regulatory framework, according to a
forensic analysis of the Inquiry report.
The NSW Irrigators’ Council review published today found that of the Upper House Committee’s
25 recommendations, 68% are already in place, 20% are contrary to best practice water
management and would pose serious negative environmental risks, and 12% are out of scope of
the reform to reduce, licence and meter floodplain harvesting.
“It’s unfathomable that anyone would want to leave floodplain harvesting outside of a regulatory
framework with unlimited and unmetered diversions,” said Claire Miller, NSWIC CEO.
“It is equally mystifying why some committee members want to delay bringing floodplain
harvesting into a regulatory framework just to repeat all the steps that have already occurred,
with serious environmental and compliance risks in the meantime.”
“Even their centrepiece recommendation to establish ‘new’ functions coordinated by the Natural
Resource Commission and other measures ignores that these functions already exist.
“It just shows some committee members had a limited understanding of key water management
roles, responsibilities, processes and reform objectives. It is also shows they couldn’t find any
legitimate reason to further delay the reform.”
The Committee also failed to recognise that the reform is expected to lead to a 14% hit to
irrigators’ bottom line, while their communities face the flow-on effects of reduced agricultural
production and job losses.
Moree Plains Shire Council which includes floodplains in both the Gwydir and Border Rivers
valleys will be hardest hit, facing a combined impact of a $6.48million economic loss and 48
fewer jobs per annum, according to independent economic reports.(1)
“Less water is not a good thing for irrigators or their communities – I can’t believe we have to
point that out,” Ms Miller said.“These are small rural communities who have been through droughts, fires, floods, and
pandemics, and who will now be hit with a major reform to their primary industry in town – it
really will be devastating.
“We are calling for both state and federal governments to invest in supporting communities in
the five northern valleys, to mitigate the socio-economic impacts, and assist in the transition to
less water for irrigation communities.”
The NSWIC has also warned that irrigators impacted by this reform have had enough of the
political games, and their acceptance of this significant reform should not be taken for granted.
“It really is a credit to irrigators who will be losing a substantial amount of their water access to
be accepting of this reform,” said Ms Miller.
“Any politician who thinks irrigators want to lose a third of their water and face expensive and
strict new regulation, should get out of Sydney and go see how people are feeling on the ground
– too many parliamentarians seem to have misunderstood what this reform is about.”
“If the stakeholders most negatively impacted by this reform accept it in the public interest, we
expect our Parliamentarians to stop standing in the way.”
The NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy seeks to reduce and limit Floodplain Harvesting to
Sustainable Diversion Limits, as required under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and impose
mandatory metering requirements.
The regulation comes as one in five litres of water available for farming have already been
recovered from irrigators for the environment under the Basin Plan, with widely documented
This regulation will reduce floodplain harvesting by one-third.
DPIE-Water modelling presented to the Committee finding the reform will meet the
environmental water requirements of native vegetation, native fish and waterbirds more often,
by an average of 82 per cent, 97 per cent and 142 per cent respectively in the Gwydir Valley alone
under the new regulation.