Water theft should not be retrospectively legalised 

MEDIA RELEASE – 3 August 2017

NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham slammed the Berejiklian government for moving to retrospectively legalising flood works that have been illegally built between 1994 and 2017.

Struggling Water Minister Niall Blair gazetted the Floodplain Management Plan for the Barwon-Darling Valley Floodplain 2017 on the 29 June 2017.  This plan contains a new Section 39 which gives the minister the power to approve flood works that have been built illegally even if they do not comply with the normal requirements (details below).

“Many of these areas are so flat that even a 10-20cm bank can divert a huge amount of water into an irrigation dam and away from natural waterways.  It’s a massive gift of water to the big irrigators. If we want to recover the water in the future then taxpayer will have to hand over huge amounts of compensation for what were illegal constructions,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.
“It’s complete shonky that National Party water minister would seek to retrospectively legalise these illegal works and water thefts.  This is disgraceful example of the National Party giving away free water to their big irrigator mates.
“Our rivers are running dry and downstream communities are facing ruin because of the mismanagement by the National Party.

“Premier Berejiklian should strip the water portfolio off the National Party, put compliance with the Water Management Act under the supervision of the environment minister, and facilitate a special commission of inquiry into this widening water theft scandal.

“These illegal channels and dams divert a vast volume of flood water away from natural waterways and into irrigation storages, making a few greedy irrigators rich at the expense of Australian rivers.”

Former Water Minister Kevin Humphries pushed through some major changes to the Water Management Act in 2014, which allowed them to create these flood plain harvesting licences. It essentially means any illegal flood harvesting works built since 1994 can be made legal retrospectively.  This has now been enacted by current Water Minister Niall Blair.

http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/regulations/2017-328.pdf

 

Section 39 of the recently gazetted Floodplain Management Plan for the Barwon-Darling Valley Floodplain 2017 allows illegal floodplain works which were made before the creation of the plan to be made legal by the Minister even if they don’t meet the environmental requirements under Section 38.  It also allows them to be amended without complying with the requirements of Section 38:

 

“A flood work approval in Barwon-Darling Management Zone A may be granted for a flood work that does not comply with the requirements of clause 38, provided the flood work meets all of the following criteria:

(a) the flood work was constructed as at the date of commencement of this Plan,

(b) the flood work is, in the Minister’s opinion, for:

(i) an access road, or

(ii) a supply channel, or

(iii) a stock refuge, or

(iv) an infrastructure protection work,

(c) as at the date of application, the flood work is not the subject of:

(i) an undetermined controlled work application under Part 8 of the Water Act 1912, or

(ii) a previously refused Part 8 application of the Water Act 1912, or

(iii) an undetermined flood work application under the Act, or

(iv) a previously refused flood work application under the Act.

(2) An amendment of a flood work approval in Barwon-Darling Management Zone A may be granted for a flood work that does not comply with the requirements of clause 38, provided the flood work meets all of the following criteria:

(a) the flood work was constructed as at the date of commencement of this Plan,

(b) the proposed modification to the flood work will, in the Minister’s opinion, reduce the impact of the work on flow patterns (distribution of flows, drainage, depth or velocity) in Barwon-Darling Management Zone A.

(3) An application under this clause must be assessed against the assessment criteria outlined in clause 40 of this Plan.

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