The NSW Water Minister’s introduction of floodplain harvesting regulations for a fifth time, and shortly before an election, shows complete and utter contempt for the voters of NSW, says Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, while Minister Kevin Anderson accuses the Greens of telling a furphy.
The Minister has tried four times to get his version of flood plain harvesting regulations through the NSW parliament and is now on his fifth attempt. The timing means the parliament will not be able to consider the proposals until after the March 25 election.
Mr Andrews has been heavily criticised by Ms Faehrmann, the Greens’ water spokesperson, who accused the National Party of setting up the regulations in a way that ensures “the National Party’s big irrigator mates in the north get handed $1 billion in water rights for free”.
“We don’t have big irrigator mates,” the Minister told the Barrier Truth last week when he visited Broken Hill and Silverton.
“What we do is we look after everybody right across our river systems and networks to ensure we do have fair and equitable use of our water.”
Of Ms Faehrmann’s comments he says, “that’s a furphy. She’s just pulling stuff out of the air like they [the Greens] do. Fairies and fairy floss all over the joint. That’s rubbish.”
Ms Faehrmann asked whether the Minister thought, “ICAC’s [Independent Commission Against Corruption] damning report into his own government’s management of water is a furphy?”
“Anyone remotely familiar with the history of water in NSW would either laugh or cry at the Minister’s comments.
“The ICAC’s investigation into water management in NSW found that DPI Water had a ‘repeated tendency to adopt an approach that was unduly focused on the interests of the irrigation industry’. In fact, the ICAC said this was ‘entrenched’ in the department.”
Mr Anderson says, “what we’re trying to do with floodplain harvesting, healthy rivers, healthy farms, healthy communities, getting more water in our rivers so our environment gets a drink, and everybody benefits. Share that most valuable resource. Why the Greens wanted to stop that, I have no idea. It’s ridiculous.”
“The Minister’s ‘nothing to see here’ attitude is at the very heart of the problem,” Ms Faehrmann says.
According to the Greens MP, the upper house has blocked the regulations four times previously because the Minister has failed to address the serious concerns held by traditional owners, downstream communities, environmentalists, and farmers about the Government’s plan to hand out hundreds of gigalitres of floodplain harvesting entitlements.
“The parliamentary inquiry into floodplain harvesting delivered strong recommendations that would see floodplain harvesting regulated in an equitable and sustainable way and brought within the legal limits in the basin plan,” Ms Faehrmann said.
“Whoever forms government after the election [due in March] needs to look at the recommendations in that report, sit down with the community and make a plan to regulate floodplain harvesting in a way that’s fair and equitable for everyone across the basin.
“This must include meeting with First Nations communities and those representing environmental interests, as well as all graziers, irrigators, and other landholders. It must also include setting end-of-flow targets that meet the ecological needs of internationally significant natural assets like Menindee Lakes and Macquarie Marshes.”