Pages tagged "water"
JOINT STATEMENT: Nature Conservation Council of NSW | Environment Victoria | Conservation South Australia
State conservation councils today congratulated Labor on its five-point plan to revive the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, saying it was a refreshing change after years of the Coalition seeking to undermine and destroy the plan.
"Labor's announcement and five-point plan is an important step towards putting the vitally important Murray-Darling Basin Plan back on track and restoring integrity to water management,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.
"It’s so refreshing to see steps towards reviving our rivers after years of the Coalition undermining and destroying the Murray-Darling Basin Plan for the benefit of a handful of big irrigation concerns.
“The commitment to deliver 450 gigalitres of water is vital if we are to meet the targets of the plan, which, according to the science, is a bare minimum needed to save rivers, wetlands and sustain river communities.
“Re-establishing the National Water Commission, publishing data and modelling, investing in science, and increasing compliance funding are all vital to restoring public confidence in water management after years of scandal and secrecy.
“The commitment to increase First Nations' water ownership is long overdue and would rectify a broken promise made by the current government and deliver some justice for historical wrongs.
“The review of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan will occur over the next term of federal government. Today, Labor signalled it has a holistic vision for a healthy river system."
Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said: “The public needs to know whether the Coalition’s water policy will continue to be dominated by the National Party whose track record has been to undermine the integrity of the plan at every opportunity, leaving a stench of mismanagement and corruption.
“Australians who care about the health of our rivers are saying 'bravo' today, as Labor takes an important first step towards reviving our rivers and river communities."
The Federal Government today committed Australian taxpayers to effectively pay a record $20,000 per megalitre to recover water in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. 
Federal Environment Minister Keith Pitt has announced the government will allocate $126 million for water efficiency infrastructure to recover possibly just 7.4 gigalitres of water, with only 6.3 gigalitres to be returned to the environment
“That means every megalitre of water saved will cost taxpayers $20,076,” Nature Conservation Council Acting Chief Executive Jacqui Mumford said.
“That’s almost eight times the most recent price paid for the permanent trade of general security access to water on the open market in the Murrumbidgee.  By some estimates, this is the most expensive water yet in Murray-Darling River system.
“It’s a scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money. There are far cheaper and more effective ways to meet the targets of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
“If all water cost this much, the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin fund would only buy 647.5 GL, about 20 per cent the 3,200 gigalitres required to be recovered under the Basin Plan.
“And where is the government’s cost-benefit analysis to show value for money? Or how about its water recovery calculations?
“Water buy-backs are a far cheaper way to achieve the same result, and the result is more certain than forecast gains from water efficiency measures, which are highly uncertain.” 
Ms Mumford asked why the Morrison Government was giving irrigators 1,100 megalitres under this arrangement, rather than returning that water to the environment to restore natural river flows.
“With climate change making less water available, such large sums should be used to diversify regional economies rather than subsidise already planned works of private irrigation schemes,” Ms Mumford said
“Reports show that each dollar spent on human services like hospitals and schools creates four times as many jobs as spending on infrastructure upgrades.” 
 See Key Water, Last Trades.
 On the permanent trade market, it would cost $2,450/ML to by water access on the Murrumbidgee. See Key Water, Last Trades.
 Modelling variants of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in the context of adverse conditions in the Basin, Glyn Wittwer Centre of Policy Studies, Victoria University, March 2020.
Labor and the crossbenchers should disallow the ecologically unsustainable and socially inequitable floodplain harvesting regulations that outgoing Water Minister Melinda Pavey rushed through last Friday. 
“These rotten regulations, virtually Ms Pavey’s last act as Water Minister, will leave a wretched legacy if they are allowed to stand,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Jacqui Mumford said.
“Ms Pavey promised to listen to river communities and to carefully consider the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry into floodplain harvesting. She did neither.
“The regulations gazetted on Friday are virtually identical to those rejected twice by the parliament already this year. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. They must not stand.
“We call on Labor and the crossbenchers to stay true to the principles of ecological sustainability and social justice to which they referred when they disallowed the regulations twice before.
“The government doesn’t even know how much water is being taken and what effect that level of unauthorised take is having on downstream users and the environment.
“But rather than wait and use the most up-to-date data, the government has recklessly rushed to issue billions of litres of new water licences that benefit a very small number of landholders.”
Priorities for nature and climate in the 2021 local government elections
BUSHLAND, GREEN SPACE AND TREES
Set ambitious targets for bushland and urban tree canopy cover
- Set targets for urban trees and urban tree canopy cover. If a target already exists, review it. Develop a plan to achieve the target.
- Set a target for bushland cover. If a target already exists, review it. Develop a plan to achieve the target. Protect and restore remnant bushland, revegetate, protect significant trees
- Enhance protections for remnant bushland and trees through Local Environment Plans and
Development Control Plans.
- Invest more in bushland restoration through the control of weeds and feral animals.
- Oppose removal of bushland and significant trees to enable development.
- When planning and executing bushfire hazard reduction measures, use the latest scientific advice to minimise environmental impacts.
Ensure a koala-friendly council
- Pass the Nature Conservation Council’s Koala Friendly Council motion (available at https://www.nature.org.au/koala_friendly_councils)
Create wildlife corridors
- Identify potential wildlife corridors to link significant wildlife habitat remnants.
- Invest in tree planting, revegetation and ongoing maintenance for these corridors.
Encourage use of native plants
- Use more native plants in council parks and gardens.
- Provide free native plants to home gardeners.
CLIMATE AND ENERGY
Clean up council operations
Set a target of net-zero emissions for all council operations by 2025 by:
- Using 100% clean electricity for all council operations.
- Making all council vehicles, including garbage trucks, electric.
Clean up local transport
- Accelerate the installation of rapid charge electric vehicle stations by working with the local community, businesses and state governments.
- Enhance active transport infrastructure by building and maintaining more and higher quality bike paths and footpaths.
Help locals, businesses and organisations slash their emissions
- Create and implement a local-emissions reductions plans with clear targets.
- Set ambitious energy performance standards for all new developments.
Support national and international movements to reduce emissions
- Adopt the Climate Emergency Declaration, which is already supported by more than 2000 councils across 34 countries.
- Sign up to the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership, Australia’s largest local government climate network, made up of over 145 councils from across the country, representing over half of the Australian population.
Ensure a diverse and drought-resilient water system
- Oppose the construction of new dams or other rainfall dependent water sources.
- Invest in system-wide water efficiency.
- Investigate stormwater harvesting and recycling.
- Investigate the use of purified recycled water.
Reduce water waste
- Encourage water saving in households with education and water saving devices.
- Investigate current water wastage across the LGA and implement ways to reduce waste.
- Subsidise rainwater tanks for residential use across the LGA.
Restore our rivers and waterways
- Restore natural wetlands for benefits including stormwater management.
- Set ambitious targets to improve the health of all rivers within the LGA.
- Invest in the active restoration of riparian zone vegetation.
 The NSW Government has pledged to plant 1 million trees in Greater Sydney by 2022 and 5 million by 2030. It also wants to increase tree canopy cover in Greater Sydney from 16% to 40% by 2030. See Total Environment Centre and NSW Government.
 If a project is considered critical infrastructure, apply best-practice approaches to offsetting. First, try to avoid impacts entirely. Second, if impacts are unavoidable, minimise them by modifying the proposal. Third, as a last resort, offset the impacts by restoring and permanently protecting similar habitat nearby.
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW has commenced a world-first legal action to protect rivers and wetlands.
The case being brought in the NSW Land & Environment Court seeks to ensure that future climate change is taken into account when decisions about water sharing plans are being made.
To keep up to date on the progress of this court case, please fill in the form.
Visit the main page on the water & climate court case.
The Nature Conservation Council has commenced a world-first legal action to protect rivers and wetlands.
The case being brought in the NSW Land & Environment Court seeks to ensure future climate change is taken into account when decisions about water sharing plans are being made.
Scientific modelling suggests rain and runoff in the Murray-Darling Basin will declined, that patterns of rainfall will change, and droughts will become more severe. The last severe drought, which followed soon after the Millennium Drought, saw record low inflows into many dams.
Making decisions on water without taking future climate change into account is foolhardy and has serious consequences for environmental health and water sharing within the catchment and for floodplains and downstream rivers, wetlands and communities.
It results in too much water being given to irrigators and too little being left for the environment and communities. Dams will empty too fast, dangerously depleting vital drought reserves.
If our legal action succeeds, decision makers will have to start taking climate change into account when setting catchment-wide extraction limits and environmental flow rules.
This is the first time in the world a catchment-wide water sharing instrument has been challenged on the grounds that fails to address the future impacts of climate change.
This could mean more water for fragile ecosystems across the Murray-Darling Basin and in turn healthier river systems and greater water security for downstream communities.
Our children and future generations deserve to enjoy and benefit from a healthy, functioning river systems.
We will argue in court the NSW Water Minister breached the Water Management Act 2000 by failing to take climate change impacts into account in relation to the Border Rivers Water Sharing Plan. We will also argue the Environment Minister breached the Act by giving his concurrence to that plan.
The Nature Conservation Council is represented by the Environmental Defenders Office and Brett Walker SC.
Climate change is not some abstract phenomenon that may occur in the distant future. River communities in NSW are bearing the brunt of that change every day, right now.
Just 18 months ago, many towns in western NSW were entirely dependent of bores or truck deliveries for their water supplies.
The Menindee Lakes until recently were a dustbowl and the Macquarie Marshes and other wetlands across the state are on the brink of ecological collapse.
This is a challenge for public administrators right now, and we believe the NSW Government has failed in its duty to meet that challenge.
Healthy rivers must be our top priority because they are the lifeblood of communities and ecosystems everywhere, especially in the Murray-Darling Basin.
It is not just prudent for governments to factor in the impacts of climate change, it is a legal requirement that we are seeking to uphold by taking this action.
We wish it was not necessary, but when public officials fail to uphold our environmental laws, we have no choice but to act.
Read the Guardian story about the court case.
The Nature Conservation Council has launched legal proceedings to have the Border Rivers Water Sharing Plan 2021 ruled invalid, alleging it was made without properly considering the future impacts of climate change. 
It is the first time in Australia — and possibly the world — that a catchment-wide water sharing instrument has been challenged on climate-related grounds.
The Nature Conservation Council is represented by the Environmental Defenders Office and Brett Walker SC.
Proceedings are being taken against the Water Minister, who made the Border Rivers WSP, and the Environment Minister, who provided concurrence.
“We are alleging that the Border Rivers Water Sharing Plan is unlawful because the ministers responsible failed to properly consider the impact climate change is likely to have on the volume of water available to share,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.
“As a consequence, too much water has been allocated for extraction and too little for the environment and downstream communities on the Barwon and Darling-Barka Rivers.
“Our rivers and the ecosystems they support are in crisis. Whole sections of the river system have completely dried up.
“The Menindee Lakes until recently were a dustbowl and the Macquarie Marshes and other wetlands across the state are on the brink of ecological collapse.
“This is a challenge for public administrators right now, and we believe the NSW Government has failed in its duty to meet that challenge.
“Healthy rivers must be our top priority because they are the lifeblood of communities and ecosystems everywhere, especially in the Murray-Darling Basin.
“If we fail to keep our rivers alive as a first priority, it doesn’t really matter what our second priority is. We will have lost the fight.
“Climate change is not some abstract phenomenon that may occur in the distant future. River communities in NSW are bearing the brunt of that change every day, right now.
“Just 18 months ago, many towns in western NSW were entirely dependent of bores or truck deliveries for their water supplies.
“It is not just prudent for governments to factor in the impacts of climate change. It is a legal requirement that we are seeking to uphold by taking this action.
“Climate models used to predict climate change and its impacts are sufficiently robust and we claim they must be taken into account in determining the allocation of water.
“We wish it was not necessary, but when public officials fail to uphold our environmental laws, we have no choice but to act.”
VIDEO NEWS GRABS
 NSW government faces crucial court challenge to Murray-Darling water plan, The Guardian Australia, 6-10-21
MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain | 0419 272 254
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.Read more
Opening Statement to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Floodplain Harvesting
By Chris Gambian, Chief Executive Nature Conservation Council of NSW
Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the Committee for the opportunity to say a few words to you this morning.
First, may I acknowledge that I am coming to you from Bidgegal country on the northern banks of the Georges River, and I pay my respects to ancestors and elders. I also pay my respects to the ancestors and elders of the Barkinji nation and all the first nations whose country we will discuss today.
In the searing heat of December 2019 I walked where the Darling Baarka should have been flowing.
I remember the eery silence. I remember the stillness of that lifeless place.
The river bank high on either side of me, I could have walked for miles and not seen a drop of water.
I’ve walked through rows and rows of rotting citrus orchards. A once viable farm now no longer capable of earning a living for the farmer, nor feeding the rest of us.
When the pipeline from the Murray was built to service Broken Hill because the Menindee Lakes could no longer be relied upon for town water – or so the story goes – emus could be found dead along its route. They could smell the water but not access it.
When I was back in the far west in November 2020, even after rain had come you could still smell the stench of dead fish rotting in the water in Wilcannia.
In the town of Menindee, so central to the story Australia tells itself about the outback, the water stinks. The water we ask our fellow Australians to shower in and brush teeth with and drink, stinks.
The conservation movement of NSW does not support flood plain harvesting.
It is a practise so contradictory to the principles of water sharing, so antagonistic to the common good, and so profoundly harmful to the sustainability of the ecosystems on which we all depend, that it should be considered not merely illegal, but anti-social and loathsome.
The assertion made by some that floodplain harvesting must be licenced before it can be regulated or limited is an obtuse one.
Imagine if this were the government’s approach in other policy areas?
We oppose floodplain harvesting but we acknowledge that it is a common practice, and we see merit in creating a realistic regulatory framework for it that gives everyone more certainty.
NCC has participated in the FPH Review Committee in good faith. However, our representative has been gagged through a Deed of Confidentiality.
Our organisation has had far less access to agency staff and less direct consultation on FPH than the irrigation industry.
We have lodged several dissenting reports on the assessment and review process with Mr Jim Bentley, the Deputy Secretary.
Water policy, perhaps more than most policy areas, is extremely complex.
You’ll hear that often repeated and will know that from your own experience.
Indeed, too many people stay away from the important debates in water policy because of this complexity, and the details of the history, data and law have been weaponised to bamboozle and confuse politicians, regulators, stakeholders and the public at large to avoid proper scrutiny.
For my own part, I have tried to understand the complexity through a simple framework which, if you indulge me, I will share with you. The three ‘Ms’:
Measurement. This is probably the area where there is the most consensus. We need accurate information about how much water exists in the system, how much is being taken out, by whom, and how much is left. I applaud the government for its efforts to get metres installed across the basin. We need even more measurement. It is critical.
Modelling. Once we know how much water is in the system, how much is being taken and from where it is being taken, we can start to create realistic models for allocations. Critically, climate change must be factored into the models.
- And finally, management. Creating a management regime that ensures the proper priority of use is applied. In this case, end of system flow targets that ensure sufficient water is made available for river health and communities, will create a frame work that is both sustainable and predictable.
Any regulatory framework needs to be realistic. And that realism needs to start with two acknowledgments:
First, that this is an incredibly dry continent that is getting drier because of climate change.
And second, that there is not likely to ever be enough water available to do all the things we may want to do with it. We may have ample land, but we do not have ample water.
It seems to me that this second reality is the hardest one for many people to swallow.
Moreover, whilst I speak today to advocate for the health of the river and its ecosystems, the environment is not a stakeholder.
The deal making and horse trading in water politics over the last 20 years has given rise to the fallacy that the environment somehow exists as some kind of interest group that needs to be balanced against other pursuits.
Without a healthy river, communities die. Agriculture dies. Its survival is our survival. When it thrives, we thrive.
Lake Menindee is full right now. Life is coming back. I’m dreaming of the joy of swimming in the river again. After lockdown I’m going to get back there. I want my daughters to experience that incredibly special place. Many of you have been. If you haven’t, I hope you go. I hope more people from the east coast go to visit. It changes you. We must protect it.