NSW minister grants himself power to approve illegal Murray-Darling Basin works

Posted 9 August 2017

Murray RiverThe NSW Government has been accused of undermining the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, after Minister Niall Blair granted himself power to approve illegal floodplain works retrospectively. 

The powers, set out in clause 39 of the Barwon-Darling Valley Plan, state that a non-compliant flood work can be approved if “in the minister’s opinion” it is for an access road, a supply channel, a stock refuge or an infrastructure protection work. 

Wentworth Group scientist Jamie Pittock said the legislation is an example of the NSW Government actively undermining the Murray-Darling Basin Plan

“Changes of regulations in NSW have allowed irrigators to take erstwhile environmental flows by allowing greater pump capacity and earlier extraction based on river heights such that Commonwealth-purchased environmental water in Queensland in not ‘shepherded’ through NSW to the lower Murray,” Pittock said. 

“The key point is this isn’t just a few bad individuals; it’s a broken system, illustrated by questionable activities of NSW Government.” 

A spokeswoman for Blair said that to be considered, illegal works must not have been previously refused and would still need to be assessed under certain criteria.

“Supply channels are one of the types of existing works that clause 39 indicates that we will accept application for,” the spokeswoman said. “Just because they are existing, doesn’t mean that they will be approved, just that they can apply. This approach is being rolled out through all floodplain management plans,” the spokeswoman said. 

Pittock said the system needs to be fixed, and has urged the Federal Government to restore trustworthy monitoring procedures following the removal of a number of monitoring programs in recent years.