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.”