Reduction in supplementary rights an inequitable response
“You don’t rob Peter, the supplementary licence holder to pay Paul, the floodplain harvester. It’s not a fair or equitable way to manage water and it’s not good policy” Zara Lowien, GVIA.
Gwydir Valley supplementary water users were recently informed that NSW believes that due to modelled growth in flood extractions above legal limits, the water sharing plan rules allow NSW to reduce available water from 1 July 2021 by half (90,000 megalitres).
This is in response to the failure of Minister Pavey to gain NSW Parliament support of regulations to enable the licensing of a separate form of take, floodplain harvesting. Which in May 2021 the Legislative Council blocked regulation aimed at reducing floodplain harvesting to legal limits and ensuring all water taken from the floodplains was measured and accounted.
Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association, Executive Officer Zara Lowien said “we made it clear at the time that communities around the Murray-Darling would be worse off without a floodplain harvesting licencing framework.”
“We are now seeing the consequences of that misguided decision”.
“Parliament refused to regulate this historical form of take and removed the future rules to better manage it. Now water users, who have not created the problem are being forced to pay the price for that decision”.
“The announcement diminishes licenced supplementary rights to offset floodplain harvesters, who are not yet recognised in the water sharing plan.”
“You don’t rob Peter, the supplementary licence holder to pay Paul, the floodplain harvester. It’s not a fair and equitable way to manage water and it’s not good policy”.
“It will undermine existing water property rights everywhere, including investments by the tax-payer.”
“It will unfairly impact supplementary licence holders who are not floodplain harvesters, which represents about 15% of Gwydir supplementary entitlements including the state and Federal government owned environmental licences.”
“It’s like the police booking every car on the road for speeding, because motorbike's are fast and might speed".
“You wouldn’t accept the police writing speeding tickets without cause, and we shouldn’t accept this approach to manage water either”.
“In this case, the wrong people are wearing the cost of Parliment's inaction” said Mrs Lowien.
“We need proper recognition and licensing of floodplain harvesting in water sharing plans with rules that address growth, in the category that creates it, consistently around the state. Otherwise, we set a precedent for water licence holders everywhere in NSW”.
“As we said before, NSW will have to propose a plan to address this state-wide inequity in flood management, they may need to action that sooner to avoid impacts in other regions” said Mrs Lowien.
“We have no issue with the need to recognise there are legal limits on water take. We have supported licencing of floodplain harvesting until Parliament lost our support, despite knowing we would have reductions in this form of take.”
“This is about how you manage to those limits and about the NSW Parliament’s inability to recognise the consequences of their actions and that by not reducing floodplain harvesting and ensuring all water taken from the floodplains was measured and accounted, they are impacting existing water property rights”.
“Floodplain harvesting is a historical form of take that’s recognised in legal limits. Our legal advice is clear about the status quo for floodplain harvesting across NSW and this decision confirms that because it remains outside the regulated water sharing plan, it cannot be managed.”
“It’s Governments who must rectify this and actually provide the rules and the tools to allow all water users everywhere to operate within and in this case they haven’t”.
"Until this happens, there is no certainty in the Murray- Darling Basin for water users, their communities or the environment".
“It’s a mess and it’s up to the NSW Parliament to fix it” said Mrs Lowien.
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Previous media statements on the disallowance and licencing discussion.