Government gives away billions of litres of water at stroke of pen

Nature Conservation Council

The NSW Government today handed billions of litres of water worth millions of dollars to private landholders in the north of the state.

The gazettal today of Water Sharing Plans for the Border Rivers, Gwydr, Macquarie and Peels rivers deals a blow to inland waterways and wetlands, which require rainwater to drain freely to sustain them and the wildlife that depend on their water sources. [1]

“Today’s massive water giveaway is a bitter blow for our ailing rivers and wetlands,” Nature Conservation Council Acting CEO Jacqui Mumford said.

“These Water Sharing Plans will activate flood plain harvesting licences that allow landholders to legally trap and store billions of litres of rainwater in their private dams, water that should flow into our rivers and wetlands.

“The Perrottet government’s own advisers warned the plans and the flood plain water harvesting licences attached to them would not protect the environment or the needs of downstream communities in the Murray-Darling Basin. [2]

“Water Minister Kevin Andrews and Environment Minister James Griffin signed off on these plans in the full knowledge that downstream flow targets were inconsistent with the objectives of the state’s water laws, which require critical human and environmental needs to be prioritised. [2]

“Our rivers are now being assailed from all sides. For years, the government has allowed irrigators to take so much water that our rivers have often stood stagnant or run dry.

“Now the government is stopping water reaching the river in the first place, licencing landholders to take massive volumes of rainwater.

“This is another nail in the coffin of the Murray-Darling River system and is inconsistent with the principles of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“It is also a bitter blow for Indigenous communities for whom rivers and wetlands have particular importance.

“Premier Dominic Perrottet says he wants to do what he can to improve conditions for Aboriginal Peoples. [3]

“Preventing the privatisation of inland water in the form of floodplain harvesting licences was one of the most important and immediate things he could have done do for the welfare of Aboriginal people to deliver on that promise. Sadly, that moment has now passed.”


[1] Water Sharing Plans gazetted today.

WSP for the Macquarie and Cudgegong Regulated Rivers Water 2022

WSP for Peel River Regulated River Water 2022

WSP for Gwydr Unregulated River Water – Amend Order 2022

WSP for Gwydr Regulated River Water Sources Amend Order 2022

WSP for the Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source 2022

[2] NSW flood plain harvesting rules won’t protect environment, government advisers warn, The Guardian, 17-7-22

[3] Premier determined to deliver better outcomes for Indigenous Australians, 5-2-22, SMH

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