Murray-Darling: NSW floodplain strategy “grossly inadequate”

The NSW Government’s strategy to manage irrigators’ use of floodwaters has been slammed in a joint submission by researchers, irrigators, graziers and a Darling River community group.

The diverse groups called on the NSW Government to withdraw its draft strategy as it fails to address the problem of massive volumes of water being diverted into private storages. 

“Floodplain harvesting in northern NSW has huge environmental and economic impacts across the Basin,” said Maryanne Slattery, Senior Water Researcher at The Australia Institute.

“This practice contributed to the Darling River fish kills that have shocked the country, but it also has costs for irrigators and graziers in other parts of the Basin, Indigenous and other communities.

“Despite the $13 billion taxpayer dollars put towards the Basin Plan, the NSW Government strategy for monitoring huge volumes of water is for self-reporting by irrigators using ‘gauge boards’ which are little more than glorified rulers or dipsticks. 

“This is trying to regulate 21st century agribusiness with medieval technology.”

“As irrigators, we are aghast at the draft strategy,” said Darcy Hare of Southern Riverina Irrigators.

“In the Southern Riverina every drop of water is measured with up to date technology and our members are committed to irrigation that is transparent, accountable and sustainable.”

“The contrast with this proposal could not be more stark. The floodplain harvesting strategy needs a major rewrite to protect the wider reputation of the irrigation industry.”

“The Darling River and Menindee Lakes need more flows to get back to a state that fish can live in and our communities can rebuild from,” said Mark Hutton of Darling River Action Group.

“We are now famous for a river of dead fish and this strategy does nothing to help our situation.”

“The health of the river and floodplains is crucial for graziers all across the Basin, and floods are essential to this. This has been forgotten by Basin managers, bringing this strategy into question,” said Rob McBride of Tolarno Station.

“Small floods are part of the basin ecosystem and have an important part to play for graziers’ productivity, but it is exactly these flows that are captured by floodplain harvesting, to the detriment of the Darling.”

“The strategy appears inconsistent with the Federal Water Act, the NSW Water Management Act, Basin Compliance Compact and the aims of the Natural Resource Access Regulator,” said Slattery.

“Unless NSW goes back to the drawing board, this could end up as a lawyers’ picnic.”

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