New evidence on water sharing plan review presented

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Northern irrigators present new evidence on water sharing plan review presented

Irrigation groups from northern NSW have added their voice to concerns with the quality of the Natural Resources Commissions draft report reviewing the Barwon Darling Water Sharing Plan.

They collectively provided a submission to the draft review saying that the NRC appears to have moved away from its previous approach to reviews and have provided no evidence of a former robust process in this draft report.

Northern irrigators say they are frustrated that the NRC relied heavily on expert opinion with “so-called” supporting evidence that was not publicly available.

Tim Napier from Border Rivers Food and Fibre said he found it extraordinary that our groups were compelled to write to the NRC last week pointing out that key documentation referenced within the draft report was not available for public scrutiny. 

“Some information was only released on the submission deadline, and due to its conflicting statements we sought independent, expert review by Barma Water Resources.

This review highlights that the NRC used information out of context without recognising the complexities and uncertainties around key headline statements like “expert opinion suggests extractions pushed the river below Bourke into hydrologic drought three years earlier than upstream sections of the river” “ Mr Napier said. 

Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association, Executive Officer Zara Lowien said the NRC failed to define the term “hydrologic drought” and failed to provide a technical analysis behind the three-year time frame.  It also appears that none of the source documents refer to the term “hydrologic drought.  

“Flow analysis showed that the volume of take by all users in the Barwon Darling during the period in question was small compared to the total flow available, and this fact has been confirmed by WaterNSW, which is all available publicly and could have been accessed by the NRC and their experts” Ms Lowien said.

Jon-Maree Baker from Namoi Water said she found it disappointing that NRC seems to have ignored flow data and river modelling from both WaterNSW and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

“We now see a major conflict between the picture painted by the NRC, and the actual flow and diversion data on the Barwon Darling that is publicly available and provided by NSW authorities.”

“We are not questioning the need for the NRC as an independent reviewer, but the Commission needs to follow due process as they have in the past.  They have a statutory responsibility under the NSW Water Management Act which requires them to consider a triple bottom line that’s integrated with catchment management, this means a range of community requirements are considered including priority of critical human need, which at this time should be a focus” Ms Baker said.


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