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Illegal floodplain harvesting works should be removed within 12 months

The NSW Government should audit all floodplain harvesting structures and order the removal of any that lack planning approval within 12 months.   

The audit and the compliance blitz are two of the key recommendation the Nature Conservation Council has made to the NSW Legislative Council Select Committee on Floodplain Harvesting.

The NSW Government should audit all floodplain harvesting structures and order the removal of any that lack planning approval within 12 months.   

The audit and the compliance blitz are two of the key recommendation the Nature Conservation Council has made to the NSW Legislative Council Select Committee on Floodplain Harvesting. [1] 

Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian gave evidence to the committee during online hearings yesterday, Monday, September 20.  

“We oppose floodplain harvesting as ecologically unsustainable and harmful to downstream farmers, communities and ecosystems that are denied water as a result of that practice,” Mr Gambian said. 

“It should be considered not merely illegal, but anti-social and loathsome. 

“However, the government seems determined to privatise of billions of litres of publicly-owned water by issuing flood plain harvesting licences. 

“If that happen, the government must at least put in place measures to minimise the harm. 

“These should include a requirement that landholders install floodplain harvesting water meters before a licence is allocated. 

“All such licences should be permanently attached to the properties to which they are initially issued so trading between properties is not permitted. 

“Trading of water licences has created market distortions that have had perverse outcomes. 

“It has shifted water from one part of the basin to another without regard for the ecological and social consequences, enriching speculators and water hoarders. 

“Meanwhile downstream users, Traditional Owners, our rivers, wetlands and wildlife have all suffered.” 

Key recommendations from the Nature Conservation Council submission 

Audit flood plain harvesting works 

  • The legal status of all flood work should be assessed and publicly reported.   
  • All illegal works must be removed.   
  • The government must report quarterly on progress towards elimination of unauthorised works.  

Enhance models and data.   

  • Current models are unreliable so they must be improved by using real data.  
  • The models must be validated by the Natural Resources Commission and accredited by the Murray Darling Basin Authority.   
  • The models must use the latest climate change data.   

Meters, licences and trading.   

  • Landholders must have FPH meters installed before they are issued with any licences.  
  • Licences should not be tradeable. They should remain with the structure and the property where harvesting has been approved. If the licence is no longer required, the structure should be removed and the licence cancelled.  
  • If permanent trades are allowed, they must not proceed before a review by an independent authority to identify any environmental impacts.  
  • Carry-overs should not be permitted. Year 1 allocation of 500 percent of entitlements should not be considered, nor should 500 percent carry-over rules.  

Monitoring and compliance.   

  • The Natural Resources Access Regulator should get the resources it needs to enforce the rules.   
  • Penalties for non-compliance should be significantly increased.  

References 

[1] Download the full Nature Conservation Council submission here. 

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