Floodplain facts

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Floodplain facts

The Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association (GVIA) represents irrigation entitlement holders in the Gwydir Valley, which is also the pilot valley for the implementation of the NSW Healthy Floodplains Program[1] (“the program”) and believes that community are entitled to additional facts about the program in our valley, not represented by the ABC News story aired on Sunday evening at 7pm, 27 May 2018 and their associated online media reports[2].

Water is precious and when its increasingly scarce, like during our current drought, sensationalised stories do little to inform discussion and establish balanced opinion.  The ABC chose to present such a story, which included misleading and false claims.

The Healthy Floodplains program was designed to incorporate this legitimate historical access into the current regulatory framework as required by legislation. 
All water available to irrigators is limited and any future licensing will recognise these limits set out in water sharing plans and the Basin Plan.
This is not new water and that implementing this program will have many benefits. Most importantly it will protect the environment and users from further growth, providing certainty to all communities who rely on it. Restricting future growth will maintain and improve floodplain flows and build on Basin Plan outcomes, not detract from them.  The regulation of access will be via a new three-fold compliance approach, rather than the two options available today again, further enhancing outcomes.
Communities should have confidence that not only water volumes are monitored but that all farms on the floodplain (not only irrigation farms) will have their works inspected to ensure they are compliant to current regulations.

Irrigators in our region have been legitimately accessing overbank flows that spill out from our terminal river system (the Gwydir River) and its branches since irrigation development.  This form of access is not new, and any entitlement and subsequent allocations provided through the implementation of the Healthy Floodplains program are already estimated as historical take[3].

The program will bring about this legitimate form of access into the current licensing framework ensuring consistency with national reform programs like the National Water Initiative signed in 2004 and the Murray Darling Basin Plan 2012.  Implementation will protect outcomes under the Basin Plan not detract from them. 

Its implementation will provide industry, the environment and any downstream users and communities certainty into the future.  It does this by providing irrigators security of access (at a historical level of take) and by restricting future growth which will maintain or improve floodplain flows downstream, including to any environmental assets.  This is particularly relevant in the Gwydir Valley, where our river system historically terminated at the internationally significant Gwydir Wetlands.   

Growth will be limited via a three-fold compliance approach through the measurement and reporting of take by individuals (new), in addition to the monitoring of valley-wide take within valley-limits (currently estimated) and the compliance of floodplain structures to standardised floodplain management plans[4].

The GVIA provided background information to the ABC to assist, as best we could, on helping them prepare a factual and balanced report.  We provided this information based on our intimate knowledge of the program being piloted in our valley and our knowledge of the important role floods have to our environment and our communities.

Unfortunately, the ABC stories and following debate highlights that floodplain access is not well understood.  The ABC chose to present a sensationalised story, which included some mis-leading and false claims that we believe require addressing, these are available in the following attachment.

See our Floodplain flow and Licensing page for more information.

For more information on the Gwydir Valley, the history of water reform and other policy areas please see our website www.gvia.org.au.

[1] The Healthy floodplains program funded by the Commonwealth Government provided NSW Government the opportunity to fast-track the implementation of the flood plain policy that was first instigated during the development of water sharing plans in 2000 but never incorporated.  See more on the program via http://www.water.nsw.gov.au/water-management/water-recovery-old/sustaining-the-basin/healthy-floodplains

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-27/murray-darling:-state-plan-to-give-irrigators-water-free-for-all/9763106?pfmredir=sm

[3] Estimates form part of Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Cap Limits (set in 1994), NSW Water Sharing Plan Limits (set in 2004 and updated in 2016) and Murray Darling Basin Plan Baseline Diversion Limits (referenced at 2009 and set in 2012).

[4] The Floodplain Management Plan for the Gwydir Valley Floodplain was gazetted in 2016 and incorporated individual sub-catchment plans into the one standardised document. https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/regulation/2016/509

[5] Page 10 of NSW Water Reform Consultation Paper on Floodplain Harvesting paper https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/145427/floodplain-harvesting-policy-consultation-paper.pdf

[6] Gwydir River Regulated Water Sharing Plan 2016 (replaced the 2004).

[7] The updated information is available for the Gwydir Valley, in the Floodplain harvesting consultation paper on page 14 https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/145427/floodplain-harvesting-policy-consultation-paper.pdf.


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