Stakeholder group prepares floodplain harvesting document

Controversial floodplain harvesting in the Northern Basin must be compliant and metered, according to the Murray Regional Strategy Group.

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The organisation, which represents numerous farming and community groups in the NSW Murray region, has prepared a document that outlines its policy position on floodplain harvesting (FPH) and water connectivity.

Chair Geoff Moar said MRSG gives in-principle support to FPH. However, it must be metered and compliant to a total water take equal to or less than the CAP, as legislated under the Basin Plan 2012, with total water use in each valley equal to or below this Sustainable Diversion Limit. Importantly, it must be metered.

Mr Moar said it was vital to protect first flushes down the Darling/Baaka River, thus ensuring end of system flow targets for the Darling. Prioritising these flows must be a key objective of Water Sharing Plans (WSP) and FPH licensing in NSW.

“Our document prioritises connectivity, and highlights that these end of system flow targets must be reached before extraction from FPH licensing takes place,” Mr Moar said.

The MRSG document has been sent to NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey, Shadow Water Minister Rose Jackson, and other state Members of Parliament.

Mr Moar pointed out that current WSPs and proposed FPH rules in the Northern Basin do not include flow targets beyond Wilcannia.

“We are calling for flow targets to Menindee that are sufficient to restore connectivity to the Lower Darling, for the benefit of industry, cultural and environmental needs, and to provide greater equity to downstream communities,” Mr Moar said.

“Licensing must be highly transparent and information publicly available on an accessible Water Register,” he added.

MRSG is seeking to work collaboratively with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and is encouraging DPIE to establish a stakeholder forum with representatives from affected groups in the Northern and Southern Basins to begin a process of developing and amending policy to support all communities across NSW.

“With robust discussion which allows all communities to present their views on issues, concerns and solutions, I am confident we can find a pathway forward,” Mr Moar said.

June 13, 2021

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