Tag Archives: Water

Guilty plea over water theft will do little to stop over extraction

NSW Greens Water Spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham has welcomed a guilty plea to water theft charges by a big irrigator but warned that legal over-extraction for cotton irrigation was leading to the demise of rivers and wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Mr Buckingham said, “It is good to see an actual prosecution take place for water theft, given that the NSW Ombudsman found that water compliance and enforcement was effectively stopped for many years under the NSW government.

“While this prosecution is welcome, it is the legal extraction too much water for cotton irrigation that is causing rivers like the Darling to die.

“Up and down the Murray-Darling Basin, there are many irrigators undertaking excessive or illegal water extraction secure in the knowledge the NSW Nationals will protect their vested interests over the environment or communities who rely on a healthy river.

“I join many landholders and communities along our rivers that have lost confidence in the ability of the Nationals to effectively administer the water portfolio for the good of all water users, not just their big irrigator mates and political donors.

“It’s also completely unacceptable that Water Minister Niall Blair now has new powers meaning he can retrospectively legalise illegal works and water thefts. This disadvantages irrigators who are doing the right thing and leaves the faucet open for attempts at undue or corrupt influence on the Minister.

“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 our rivers.

“Water theft has real world consequences for the environment and downstream communities. While landholders and communities continue to struggle with drought and the impacts of climate change, the Nationals hold back the urgent action needed for healthy flowing rivers,” he said.

A new downstream weir for Wilcannia a positive step forward, but too long in coming

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham has welcomed the state and federal governments finally committing $30 million to build a new downstream weir for Wilcannia, but said it had taken too long.

It should not take a tight state and federal election to get action for regional communities on water supplies, he said.

“I was first approached in 2014 by Wilcannia residents about a new weir for Wilcannia and I’ve been pursuing the government about the issue ever since. I’ve raised it in parliament at every opportunity, written to the Premier and the ministers, and educated the community about the great injustice and need for a new weir,” Mr Buckingham said

“A new weir and the weir pool it will create will provide, swimming, fishing, cultural and even small-scale irrigation opportunities for the people of Wilcannia.

“While the Wilcannia weir announcement is a good step forward, it will not solve the systemic problem of a lack of surface flows down the Darling/Barka river due to over allocation to upstream irrigation, mainly cotton.

“The Barkindji people tell me that the Barka is dying. The regular small and medium flows that came down the Darling through Wilcannia have stopped because too much water is being taken up stream.

“While the government is recognising the cultural values of the Darling River, it should facilitate the process to formally recognise the Aboriginal name for the Darling River – the Barka – with a dual naming through the NSW Geographical Names Board.

“The Greens are proud to represent the interests of the people of Wilcannia. They may be far away and isolated from Sydney, but I have made sure that their issues were raised in the parliament time and time again.

“The cynic would note that the government has finally committed money to the project only a few months before both state and federal elections are due. This is exactly why people should vote against the National Party. It’s only when they can’t take the Far West for granted that they pay any attention or grant any funding,” he said.

Science is in: Approval of new coal mines such as Bylong risks dangerous pollution and climate change

The NSW Government should update the terms of reference of the Independent Planning Commission to reflect the latest science and not allow the approval of any new thermal coal mines or mine extensions in NSW.

In the lead-up to the Independent Planning Commission Public Meeting on Bylong Coal Mine in Mudgee tomorrow, the NSW Greens have called on the NSW Government to also rule out the Bylong coal mine and any new thermal coal mines in the NSW planning pipeline.

The recent IPCC report warned the world must quit coal by 2050 and avoid tapping the vast majority fossil fuels for the best opportunity of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees.

If approved the Bylong coal mine would be licenced to operate until 2044, producing 343.2 million tonnes of carbon pollution in its lifetime.

NSW Greens resources spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said the tight time frame for halting and reversing rising emissions means NSW cannot delay action.

“The NSW Liberal/Nationals ignore climate change at their peril,” he said today.

“The decisions made today will determine our fate. There should be no new coal mines or coal mine expansions in an era of worsening climate change, especially with the impacts of climate change so evident in the impacts of this severe drought.

“It would be negligent and irresponsible for the NSW Government to allow the Bylong coal mine proposal to go ahead.

“The Bylong Valley is rich in natural beauty, fertile agricultural land and significant water and river resources. These are the lasting legacy we want to leave future generations, not dangerous pollution and out-of-control climate change,” Mr Buckingham said.

Details
What: Independent Planning Commission Public Meeting on Bylong Coal Mine
When: 9am, Wednesday 7 November
Where: Parklands Resort and Conference Centre, Mudgee
More details:
https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/projects/2018/10/bylong-coal-project

📷: Lock the Gate Alliance

Greens cranky it’s taken years for Nationals to remove dam proposal off the table in Central West

NSW Greens Rural Water spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham has welcomed the NSW Nationals caving into Greens and community pressure and taking the proposal for a dam at Cranky Rock off the table.

Mr Buckingham said the decision, made five months out from a tight State election, confirms the Greens’ suspicion that the original Needles Dam and the Cranky Rock alternative were nothing more than ‘back of the beer coaster’ proposals.

“Nothing gets between the National Party and hole in the ground or a new dam or both,” he said.

“When the Nationals are under pressure, they quickly fall back on the same formula of more dams, regardless of whether they’re necessary or adversely impact on the community and nature.

“If they’d listened to the Greens years ago when we first raised our objections, the community would have had greater certainty and alternative water security measures could already have been in place.

“NSW does not need new dams, we need smart local water solutions such as stormwater harvesting, increasing efficiency and recycling.

“The Liberal/Nationals have been in government for seven years but they forgot to forward-plan for drought.

“The Nationals are still in denial about climate change despite drought and extreme weather and the reality of its impacts hitting home to many on the land. They are nowhere to be seen when it comes to protecting communities from misuse and theft of water by the mining industry or big irrigators.

“There’s a natural fit between the increasing concern about natural cycles and the need for climate action, which will give farmers and the Greens more in common than ever before.

“The Nationals should be damn worried that regional communities will wake up to the fact they’ve lost touch and vote them out at the next election,” Mr Buckingham said.

📷: Central Western Daily

 

Ombudsman report damns water compliance performance

MEDIA RELEASE – 17 August 2018

NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said today’s Ombudsman’s report Water: Compliance and Enforcement once again details how the NSW government downgraded and neglected water compliance until 4 Corners exposed its failures in July 2017. He backed the Ombudsman’s recommendation that the rollout of meters for water users be fast-tracked to be completed before the current target date of 2023.

“Once again we have a damning Ombudsman report into water compliance in NSW. Successive National Party water ministers have allowed compliance to be underfunded and neglected to the point where the Ombudsman has revealed that compliance officers were not issued Penalty Infringement Notice books for over a year after being transferred to WaterNSW,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“Placing the Nationals in charge of water is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Unfortunately, water is an area where government action and inaction can result in significant windfall profits for some water users, which is why compliance and enforcement is so crucial.

“The Greens strongly back the Ombudsman’s recommendation that the government speed up the rollout of metering for water users. The Ken Matthews inquiry recommended a ‘no meter, no pump’ rule, but the government has squibbed it with a slow roll out of water meters.

“It’s not just the drought that has dried up our inland rivers, it is also decades of neglect, mismanagement, corruption and over-allocation.”

Humphries 1 – 0 Blair: Last minute amendment degrades protection for environmental water

MEDIA RELEASE – 20 June 2018

The Greens NSW water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today accused the water minister Niall Blair of being rolled by former minister and National Party rival, Kevin Humphries and his allies by introducing a last minute amendment to the Water Management Amendment Bill 2018 to reduce his own powers to protect flows of water released for environmental purposes.

Irrigators pumping during environmental water flows has become a major issue.  In mid-2017 a significant environmental release aimed at connecting the Macquarie and Barwon Rivers to allow golden, silver and spangled perch fingerlings to spread, was severely impacted when an irrigator broke a handshake agreement and pumped a considerable amount of water from the environmental flow.

A subsequent Department of Primary Industries report ‘Making the Connection: Designing, delivering and monitoring flows between catchments’ recommended:

“Adequate legislative protection of environmental flow events from extraction in both the regulated and unregulated Macquarie water sources is required. Protecting the integrity of flows is also emerging as a key factor to the success of connectivity watering events and facilitating this should be a focus in current planning and legislative frameworks throughout the Basin.“

“The original public consultation draft of this bill gave the minister strong and explicit powers to protect environmental water. These powers were watered down under pressure from irrigators in the bill introduced into parliament, but then a further amendment abolishing specific protections was handed to parliamentarians only five minutes before debate resumed last night,” Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said.

“It appears that Kevin Humphries and his allies have rolled Niall Blair in the National’s party room to further diminish protections for environmental water in NSW.

“The last minute amendments removed the Minister’s power to place mandatory conditions on licences to protect environmental flows.”

Prior to this amendment, water minister Niall Blair justified the original provision for mandatory conditions in his second reading speech as a way ‘to provide a simpler, clearer and more transparent regulatory framework’:

“The bill allows mandatory conditions to be imposed on a water access licence or approval by regulation. Prescribing mandatory conditions by regulation will provide a simpler, clearer and more transparent regulatory framework. This is consistent with the application of mandatory conditions by regulation under other legislation such as the Biosecurity Act 2015. Stakeholders raised some concerns about imposing mandatory conditions on licences and approval by regulation without consultation. The Government has listened to these concerns and the bill now provides at item [56] that a mandatory condition, other than one that is of a machinery nature or is minor in its effect, must not be prescribed unless it is publicly exhibited for at least 28 days.”

The final Third Read vote will happen when parliament resumes today. The Greens will oppose the bill.

Water Management Bill has loopholes you can fit an irrigation pipe through

MEDIA RELEASE – 19 June 2018

The Greens NSW water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today accused the NSW Government of watering down its Water Management Amendment Bill 2018 to create loopholes to benefit large irrigators meaning the full recommendations of the Ken Matthews Inquiry will not be implemented and mismanagement of water in NSW will continue into the future.

“Some of the provisions in the bill currently before parliament are a recipe for killing the Darling River. Essentially you will have water extraction concentrated in the upper reaches, while the lower Darling dies and Broken Hill is fed by a pipeline from the Murray at Wentworth,” Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said.

“There are massive holes in this legislation and considerable differences between the Public Consultation Draft of the Water Management Amendment Bill 2018 and the bill introduced into parliament last week. Most of these differences favour irrigators and effectively create loopholes that will see over extraction and mismanagement of water continue in NSW.

“Many of the original provisions of the bill, based on the Ken Matthews Inquiry recommendations and the ‘Better management of environmental water – interim solutions package’ interagency taskforce, have been taken out or watered down at the request of the NSW Irrigators Council as detailed in their submission.

  • Privatisation of water metering following irrigators lobbying.
  • Exemptions for ‘no meter no pump rule’.
  • Watering down ministers mandate to embargo pumping of environmental water.
  • Removal of the clause the prohibits seeking compensation for embargos to shepherd environmental water following irrigators lobbying.
  • Fails to create individual daily extraction limits (IDELs) immediately as recommended by Mathews Report.
  • Allowing IDELs to be traded up river and between catchments.
  • Removes requirement to review water sharing plans every five years.
  • Allows NSW to pull out of requirements under the federal Water Act 2007 (e.g. Murray Darling Basin Plan) by regulation not legislation.

 

“Apart from water theft and an over allocation of water generally in the Barwon Darling, there are numerous other issues that have created a regime of mismanagement with disastrous ecological and social implications.

“The over allocation of A Class licences, which allow irrigators to pump at a low river flow, combined with allowing larger pump diameters and allowing irrigators to pump 300% of their entitlement in any one year, has resulted into over-extraction in dry times.

“The delay in implementing individual daily extraction limits (IDELs) is compounded with the provision to allow the trading of IDEL’s across catchments. This is a recipe for concentrating extraction upstream or allowing inappropriate extraction because of cross-catchment trading.

“It’s clear that we need all water extraction metered and to have telemetry provide a transparency in water management. Not only has the government blown out the deadline for the ‘no meter no pump’ rule by 3 years, but the bill allows the government to privatise water metering and creates exemptions for metering, undermining this vitally important aspect of monitoring and compliance.

“The public consultation draft had a strong provision to grant the minister the power to mandate an embargo on pumping to ensure water released for environmental purposes was not taken by irrigators. This provision also ensured that irrigators could not claim compensation from taxpayers when the minister used this mandate.  However, the government has bowed to pressure from the irrigation industry to water down the mandate and allowed claims for compensation.

“The bill should be the chance to fix water management and compliance in NSW.  Instead the government has caved to the big irrigators and created loopholes that will haunt us into the future and result in the death of the Darling River.”

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