Concerns have been expressed about the potential ramifications of changes that could lead to flooding of public and private property.
They come with the NSW Water Management Amendment Bill 2018, which has recently been passed in the NSW Parliament.
Under the Bill, the responsible Minister has the power to deem that any flow is for ‘environmental purposes’, and dissolves the Crown of liability for any damages from environmental watering.
Jan Beer, from the Upper Goulburn River Catchment Association, says it “beggars belief” that the NSW Government could even consider amendments of this nature, let alone pass them as legislation.
“It appears the NSW Government has forgotten that it shares the Murray River and its management with Victoria.
“Under the amendments the NSW Government is washing its hands of any responsibility for flooding to private property while delivering environmental water. This is absurd,” Mrs Beer said.
She said in the past Victoria and NSW have stood strongly together to protect people they represent. This latest move by the NSW Government contravenes Victorian policy which does not allow flooding of private property without landowners’ consent.
“The NSW amendment is the latest change in water policy and yet again shows the divisiveness of the Murray Darling Basin Plan,” Mrs Beer said.
“It has the potential to destroy the productive capacity of thousands of floodplain properties. The people making these decisions must be completely ignorant of how damaging these flood flows can be.
“To recover from a large flood event takes many years. I know from first-hand experience the cost and work involved. Repetitive flooding will destroy these businesses, as it will not be financially viable to try and rectify the damage after each and every flood.
“Perhaps the amendment is specifically designed for the Northern Basin, because it simply cannot work in the Southern Basin. If that is the case it should be clearly specified.”
Mrs Beer said the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder had always followed a ‘ good neighbour policy’, under which there would be no intentional flooding of private property without the landowner’s consent.
“I’m concerned this policy may have changed under the new Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Jody Swirepik. If that is the case landowners need to be advised.”
Mrs Beer said she hoped the issue could be resolved and the NSW Government was able to accept the folly in its amendment.
“It appears the NSW Government has failed to understand the potential future risks that are involved,” she said.