Macquarie River Food and Fibre (MRFF) are a strong supporter of the objectives of the NSW Healthy Floodplains Program (“the program”) and the benefits it offers to the wider community. Principally, the program will bring floodplain harvesting, already an approved and legal practice, within the licencing framework and provide certainty to all communities that rely on floodplain flows.
Floodplain harvesting is not new and is certainly not a loophole. Harvesting of overbank flows have been a legitimate form of take since 1912. However, by licencing floodplain harvesting and providing irrigators security of access (at a historical level of take), the program will be able to restrict growth and maintain flows for floodplain dependent communities, including the environment. The Macquarie Marsh floods and subsequent bird breeding events of 2012 and 2016, occurred under the proposed levels of floodplain harvesting and demonstrate that floodplain harvesting will not affect the function and health of the marsh in times of flood.
In bringing floodplain harvesting into the licencing framework, growth will be managed by compliance measures that ensure that individuals aren’t taking more than their share and floodplain structures are developed in accordance with floodplain management plans. Licensees will be subject to measurement and reporting standards that ensure all water is accounted for, with the enforcement capability of the Water Management Act available where users are found to be in contravention of licence conditions. This is a significant advancement on current compliance and enforcement capability.
The Healthy Floodplains Program is a significant advancement on existing arrangements and ensures consistency with national water reform programs such as the National Water Initiative (2004) and the Murray Darling Basin Plan (2012). MRFF welcomes the assurances the program will bring and encourages the wider community to recognise the programs benefits and progress from existing arrangements.