Aerial view of irrigated crops in the Southern Riverina

Changes to the Border Rivers, Gwydir and Macquarie Water Sharing Plans have been approved by the New South Wales Government; strengthening, it says, the regulation of floodplain harvesting in the state’s north.

The planned review after three years will allow early monitoring of floodplain harvesting to be carefully evaluated, and for changes to be made without the risk of compensation to licence holders who will benefit from the certainty of regulation.

The next steps are expected to include:
1 September, licence holders in the Border Rivers and Gwydir valleys will have their water accounts credited and the floodplain harvesting framework will be fully operational
Licences for the Macquarie, Barwon-Darling and Namoi valleys will be determined and will come into effect later this year and in early 2023
New South Wales’ Minister for Lands and Water, Kevin Anderson, promised an average annual return of about 100gl of water to the state’s floodplains and river systems under the new requirements.

“When it comes to managing water in New South Wales, my view is healthy rivers, healthy farms and healthy communities, not one or the other,” Mr Anderson said.

“This is a policy that supports farmers and downstream communities and will return around 100gl of water to our floodplains and river systems per year on average, and more than three times that volume in wetter years, which is a great outcome.”

New South Wales’ Minister for Environment, James Griffin, said the policy is about improving environmental protection while recognising the need for adaptive management.

“For decades, floodplain harvesting has had no restrictions, going unmonitored, unmeasured and unconstrained, impacting upon river ecosystems and the plant and animal species that depend on them,” Mr Griffin said.

“As part of these new plans, we have ensured that an independent review of the local access triggers and the downstream Menindee target will occur within the first three years of the plans, with changes to follow if warranted and the review published.

“These are the first-ever enforceable controls put into law that will reduce, restrict and limit floodplain harvesting and strengthen existing protections for water sources and dependent ecosystems.”

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