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Floodplain harvesting regulation disallowance is a chance to renegotiate a settlement that works for all water stakeholders

The Upper House’s has disallowed a government regulation that would have diverted hundreds of billions of litres of water from rivers, wetlands and downstream communities. 

“This is the best decision possible for river health, First Nations peoples and downstream communities,” said Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian. 

“This decision provides an opportunity for the government to go back and enter good faith negotiations with all the key stakeholders to get the balance right on this critical piece of public policy. 

“The regulation introduced by former Water Minister Melinda Pavey blindly favoured big irrigators, despite pleas from conservationists, First Nation’s peoples and downstream farmers to consider the complexity of this highly controversial issue. 

“The new Water Minister, Kevin Anderson, now has an opportunity to sit down in good faith and understand the perspectives of the whole community on floodplain water harvesting.   

“We have to strike the right balance to ensure a viable agricultural sector all along the river system while keeping the river flowing and connected end to end.  

“There’s no agriculture on a dead river system.  

“The regulation would have handed hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of water access licences to selected landholders for free, with zero certainty for downstream farmers and communities, First Nations peoples, or the environment.  

“We are ready to sit down in good faith and find a system that can work.  

“The environment is not a special interest — everyone has a stake in a river system that flows, wetlands that draw down carbon and nurture fish and other wildlife, soil and salinity.  

“The toxic rhetoric that pits irrigators against conservationists does nothing to solve the issues and everything to drive deeper division and further entrench the war of attrition that has been going on for years.  

“Everyone loses in that scenario. We can and must all do better.”  

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