Floodplain harvesting report shines a light on policy flaws

Media Release – 15th December 2021

Inland Rivers Network welcomes the release of the NSW Parliament Select Committee’s report into floodplain harvesting, which recognises the need for the NSW Government to take a lot more care in the way they propose to licence floodplain harvesting.

Floodplain harvesting is the capture of rainwater flowing overland and water overflowing from flooding rivers. This water take is not licenced or monitored. The volume of water taken has increased dramatically, since the Cap on licenced extractions commenced in 1993/1994, as have the on-farm storage volumes. Floodplain harvesting is one of the main reasons for the demise of the wetlands and the Darling Baaka River.

“We have been calling for the government to work out what the impact of decades of unchecked floodplain harvesting has been on downstream environments and communities before they issue licences, and we are pleased to see the Committee calls for that assessment to be done.” Said Brian Stevens, Secretary of Inland Rivers Network.

The report recommends that the way the Government has calculated new diversion limits for each valley be clearly explained, and they show that each new limit represents an environmentally sustainable level of water take.

“Right now there is a huge risk that the government will issue licences for far too much water, ensuring the environmental collapse of the rivers of the Northern Basin.” Said Mr Stevens.

The report makes several recommendations about illegal and unapproved floodplain works, recommending that all illegal works be removed within six months.

“Floodplain harvesting licences should not be issued to illegal and unapproved works – that should go without saying, but that’s exactly what the Government is planning to do. In the Macquarie Valley for example there are a huge number of unauthorised floodplain works that could be given floodplain harvesting licences worth millions.” Said Mr Stevens  

Inland Rivers Network calls on the NSW Government to implement all twenty-five recommendations of the report, as it is critically important that there is accurate metering and monitoring of floodplain harvesting in place before licences are handed out. Mr Stevens also called for end of system flow regulations to be introduced for each of the northern valleys, to ensure water flows in the Barwon-Darling-Baaka River.

Media Contact:  

Brian Stevens, Secretary of Inland Rivers Network – 0429 903 082

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