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NCC welcomes the return of water to our coastal rivers and wetlands

27th September 2023 

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) has today welcomed NSW Water Minister Rose Jackson’s announcement that the NSW Government will rectify the flawed coastal water harvesting laws that allowed for unsustainable volumes of water to be withheld from our waterways.  

This announcement could not have come at a better time. With climate change worsening and the effects of El Niño imminent, every drop of water counts.NCC acting CEO Dr Brad Smith said today. 

In 2022, then Water Minister Kevin Anderson made an order under the Water Management Act 2000 (NSW) to triple the amount of water that landholders could drain from coastal catchments, substantially reducing the amount of water that flowed into NSW's coastal wetlands and rivers.   

Statements attributable to Dr Brad Smith, NCC Acting CEO:  

“The return of this critical water to the environment and downstream communities will give our coastal ecosystems a fighting chance at making it through what is set to be a very hot and dry El Niño period. 

“The previous governments changes to coastal harvestable rights worked to benefit a select few people upstream, at the expense of downstream communities and the environment. 

“Maintaining this reckless reform would have risked more rivers and creeks in coastal catchments running dry, decimating our coastal ecosystems and depriving downstream communities of much-needed clean and accessible water 

“We commend Minister Jackson and the Minns Government for reversing this mistake, which should never have made its way into law. 

“The decision was made without adequate investigation into what the effects of this change would be for the environment and downstream communities, especially during a drought. 

“Coastal wetlands benefit our communities by providing protection from storms and floods, sequestering vast quantities of carbon, and purifying our water.” 

They also power our fishing and tourism industries and support an incredible and unique array of biodiverse plants and animals. 

“The policy fix announced today will return millions of dollars' worth of water to public ownership, making our environment and communities more resilient in the face of an escalating climate crisis and looming drought. 

Coastal wetlands remain under significant threat from pressures such as urban development. 

The government must now address inappropriate and destructive “zombie” developments that are threatening to fundamentally degrade NSW’s coastal villages and ecosystems forever.” 


Statement ends 

Media contact: Clancy Barnard 
E: [email protected]  Ph: 0438 869 332 


Key wetlands facts: 

  • Seagrass beds, salt marshes and mangroves provide over 60% of the dietary intake for the fish species that allow for recreational and commercial fishing in NSW, contributing over $35 million to Australia’s fisheries.   

  • Wetlands purify the water, by removing suspended sediment and pollutants from our waterways, making them cleaner, healthier, and safer to swim in.  

  • Healthy wetlands help to maintain Aboriginal communities’ cultural connection to Country, a mutually beneficial relationship stretching back tens of thousands of years.   

  • Wetlands are the world’s predominant natural carbon sinks. Scientists estimate wetlands hold up to a quarter of the world's organic carbon and sequester carbon at rates up to 40 times higher than rainforests.  

  • Wetlands act as a buffer against extreme weather events such as floods, slowing down water and acting as massive sponges, holding water in the landscape. Mangroves absorb the battering waves of angry, storming seas and coastal wetlands reduce wave energy by up to 71%, keeping our coastal communities safe. Studies have found that every remaining hectare of healthy coastal wetland averts over $4,200AUD worth of storm damage annually, or $236 million per storm in total, nationwide. 

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