The future of the 250 million year old Darling-Baaka River is being decided now as the NSW Government develops rules about how much water can be diverted off floodplains before it reaches the river.
Floodplain harvesting diverts water that either falls as rain or breaks over the river bank into private dams with levee banks. Floodplain harvesting dehydrates floodplains, wetlands and aquifers, and was identified by several reports as a key contributor to the mass fish kills in the Lower Darling last year.
Under proposed new licencing rules, the NSW Government wants to gift those who harvest water from floodplains with an initial allowance to take five times their share of water. Further to that, the river would owe those who harvest water from floodplains a full entitlement’s worth of water every single year, whether it floods or not.
It would be close to impossible for the river to provide all of the water that it ‘owes’ water harvesters. ICAC’s recent scathing findings on water management in NSW identify that there is a “lengthy history of failure in giving proper and full effect to the objects principles and duties of the Water Management Act and its priorities for water sharing.” The rules proposed for managing floodplain harvesting in NSW prove that nothing looks like changing.
Quotes attributable to Melissa Gray, Convenor of Healthy Rivers Dubbo “It is ludicrous for the NSW Government to pretend it is limiting the volume of water that can be diverted from the floodplains. By the time a flood happens, these generous rules would mean the only limit to the volume of water that can be taken is how much can be physically held, which is enormous.
“The impact that floodplain harvesting has had over the decades in dehydrating and weakening the rivers, wetlands and aquifers of the Northern Basin needs to be assessed before the hand out of tradable, mortgageable, compensable new property rights worth an estimated $1 to $2 billion.
“ICAC have confirmed what we in the Basin have known for a long time, that the NSW Government department that manages water makes decisions about rivers that favour large irrigators over First Nations People, grazing communities, recreational fishers, small irrigators and water security for places like Dubbo, Walgett, Brewarrina, Bourke and Wilcannia – not to mention the environment.
“The Basin Plan asks governments to put the environment first. NSW Government water managers have not been able to do that. Unless we ensure the rivers, wetlands and aquifers get enough water to be resilient through tough droughts, we will all fail.”
Floodplain Harvesting diversions are not included in this article.
HEALTHY RIVERS – HEALTHY COMMUNITIES Terry Korn, Australian Floodplain Association.
There are few things more contentious than water! And this is very apparent at present as we debate the future of water management in the Murray Darling Basin.
Underpinning the debate is everyone’s concern for the future and what a changed water environment will mean for them and their family, their business and their grandchildren. Questions arise such as: Will it mean less food production? Will it mean more expensive food? Will it mean healthier rivers with more productive floodplains and wetlands and no net change in food production? Will communities survive? How can we manage with less water and how will we share the water in a fair and equitable way? Will future generations say we were wise, that we heeded lessons of the past, that we were considerate and caring about both people and the environment? So many questions and no easy answers!
I think it is important to step back to understand how this happened and make sure we do not repeat history, as so often happens. The Macquarie Valley is an example of the mismanagement of New South Wales water resources by a succession of governments and water agencies over the last 40 years.
When Burrendong dam was completed in 1966/67 the yield of the Macquarie River was assessed as 406000Megalitres (ML). That is roughly 406000 Olympic swimming pools. By 1978 the water users in the valley, most of whom were irrigators (agriculture uses about 80% of the allocated water), advised the Water Resources Commission (WRC) that the river was over allocated and an embargo should be placed on the issue of future water licenses. In 1979 the WRC introduced the embargo but at the same time raised the annual estimated yield of the river to 475000ML and continued to issue licenses so that permissible extraction rose to 497500ML.
Original licenses stipulated the area of land that could be irrigated but not the volume of water used. To remedy this anomaly, volumetric allocations were introduced. This system apportioned volumes of water (Megalitres/hectare) to a property and the property owner then decided how the water could be most productively used. Other valleys in NSW were allocated 6ML/ha but the Macquarie Valley was allocated 8ML/ha for irrigators on river schemes. For Off River schemes the standard 6ML/ha was agreed. By 1985 the total allocated water was 612000ML of which 452000ML was for riparian irrigators and 160000ML for off river schemes. As the revised estimated long term average yield of the river was 475000ML the Macquarie was now over committed by 137000ML more than the revised yield of 475000ML and 206000ML more than the original yield of 406000ML.
It gets worse! In 1985 allocations to existing licenses were increased by about 13000ML despites concerns and objections from stakeholder groups. From then to now the allocations for extractive use have risen to 738000ML for the Macquarie/Cudgegong system (the Cudgegong River flows into Burrendong Dam from the Mudgee area). An additional 160000ML was also allocated to the environment despite the fact it was obvious the already over allocated rive could not yield the 160000ML. The total allocation of regulated and supplementary flow water for the system is therefore now the grand total of 898793ML, almost double the revised estimated 1979 yield of 475000ML¹.
With such mismanagement the damage is widespread, indiscriminate and long lasting!
As the river became more over allocated and water was harvested freely from the floodplains, less and less water was available for overland flows and recharge of wetlands. Floodplains below Warren now receive fewer and smaller floods. The many floodplain graziers and croppers in the valley have had production reduced by 30-50% as a result. These are the industries on which valley communities were initially established and survived during the last drought when little or no water was available for large scale irrigation. They deserve better than that!
The significant irrigation industry suffers because the Macquarie Valley now has a 50% reliability of supply which is no better than chance. This is not a good foundation on which to base a high cost industry such as cotton, a major product of the valley. Nor does it provide surety for those families, businesses and communities who rely heavily on the irrigation industry. They deserve better than that!
And what sort of environment will we leave for future generations? Our wetlands which provide ecosystem services and support a great diversity of plants and animals have decreased in number and size. They have been radically changed by the fewer and smaller floods which are now the norm. The environment deserves better than that!
The question then arises: “How can we manage with the 475000ML of river yield so that it is shared in a fair and equitable way between industry and the environment without unduly impacting on local communities?”
This is where the debate now sits and the Federal Government has established the Murray Darling Basin Authority to develop and implement a plan for a basin which contains 22 other major river valleys. But do this task it must, otherwise in 15 years time we will face the same debate with even greater environmental damage and community adjustment.
The Macquarie River is so over allocated there is no easy solution and there will be impacts. Already progress has been made with the government buying water from willing sellers. It has secured more than 50% of what is required to service environmental needs in the valley. Further purchases need to be made and more savings will be made through changes to irrigation infrastructure.
I am confident the innovative irrigators of the Macquarie Valley will meet this challenge. It is essential that the non irrigation floodplain producers see justice through the restoration of much of their lost production. Running parallel with productive floodplains is a robust and resilient environment to support future generations. The sensible sharing of resources and resultant diversity of production will give us a healthy river. A healthy river will give us a healthy community!
¹ Note – all figures are from:Johnson W J (2005) Adaptive management of a complex social-ecological system: the regulated Macquarie River in south-eastern Australia. Master of Resource Science Thesis, University of New England.
Wise use of publicly owned water for the environment in the 2018-2019 water year helped vegetation in the core 10% of the struggling Macquarie Marshes hold on through the extreme drought of 2017-2019.
The rains in February 2020 came just in time to provide relief to the burnt North Marsh reed bed – however some fumbling in NSW agencies meant that the first flows weren’t protected for the environment, and significant volumes of water were allowed to be pumped and diverted from the river.
As a result, parts of the Ramsar listed wetlands turned green with noxious weeds, looking healthy to the untrained eye – but only flood water can heal a wetland. It wasn’t until late April 2020, when the growing days were shortening, that flows finally reached the northern part of the Marshes and the Lower Macquarie.
The start of the new water year as of 1st July 2020 saw some water that had been allocated to customers in 2016 finally turn up in the dam and be available, followed by some more flows. Time to get some important flows into the valley for native fish recovery and vegetation in the Macquarie Marshes.
The first part of the flow was designed to support Gugabul- Murray Cod on the nest.
Despite a hiccup with the cold water pollution control curtain in Burrendong which sent chilly 12 degree water down the river, NSW DPI – Fisheries detected Murray cod larvae in the Trangie area in mid-October. Based on larval ages, hatching of eggs began at the start of October.
The timing and duration of flows to the Macquarie Marshes is also critical for the recovery of this internationally significant wetland system. Plants in core wetland areas typically need 2–3 months of inundation over the post-frost months to allow them to flourish. This gives them a better chance to out-compete weeds such as lippia and noogoora burr.
With the landscape becoming drier, river operations getting tighter and the volumes of water available to fill water orders rapidly decreasing, environmental water managers are doing an excellent job supporting aquatic life in Wambuul.
Setting objectives is a powerful tool for organisations. Over time, objectives create and reinforce corporate culture. The objectives of an organisation inform decisions management make around hiring and training staff. They are the force behind the motivation of the organisations’ employees.
As the operator of 42 dams across NSW supplying two thirds of the water used in NSW, WaterNSW has a critical role to play in the health and resilience of the rivers of NSW.
Every action WaterNSW performs affects the environment. The modification of rivers has had significant impacts on groundwater aquifers, floodplains, wetlands a well as the rivers themselves.
The culture within the state owned corporation when it comes to prioritising environmental objectives is therefore very important.
Compliance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development should feature highly in the principle objectives of the state owned corporation, not at the very end of the secondary objectives.
Read Healthy Rivers Dubbo submission to the review of the WaterNSW Act 2014.
You would be right to believe that critical environmental and human needs for water have the highest priority to access to water in the rules that manage the Wambuul-Macquarie River… on paper, yes, the environment has the highest priority. But in reality, on the ground, the rules are applied in such a way so that irrigation gets looked after first – even after last summers crippling drought.
Supplementary access was announced – when the first flows arrived in the Macquarie in mid February 2020, the peak of the first flows was allowed to be pumped. The critical environmental and human needs downstream were ignored.
Floodplain harvesting is enormous – the diversion of overland flows into private dams by levy’s – held back an unknown, unmeasured volume of water. So much water, that flows that began in February didn’t reach the northern parts of the burnt North Marsh reed bed until the end of April. Healthy Rivers Dubbo conservatively estimates from the pieces of information available that around 70 to 90 GL ( 1 GL = 1 billion litres) was taken from the floodplains in the Macquarie this year (for scale Dubbo uses 8 GL a year from the river).
Remember the summer of 2019/20 in the Macquarie Valley?
The sharp severity of the drought was unprecedented. The Warren weir was raised by WaterNSW stopping flows beyond. Downstream, the river rapidly dried up to a series of disconnected green pools.
Insurance populations of turtles and fish were rescued from the river and secured in hatcheries by environmental agencies. Despite commendable efforts from the recreational fishing community to rescue as many fish as possible, mass fish deaths resulted.
The Macquarie Marshes were parched. There hadn’t been any surface water in the core Marsh since January 2019. The impact of years of ‘tight’ river management was evident – there was far less water around, and it disappeared very quickly.
Critical human need and stock and domestic requirements were not being met along the River and creeks downstream of Warren. There was a shocking loss of wildlife as a result. Mobs of kangaroos perished, many 50 year old plus turtles died, and we lost some of the oldest mussels known to exist in our fresh water rivers. The loss of vegetation meant less habitat for many and varied water dependent animals, fish and birds.
The North Marsh reed bed (the largest reed bed in the Murray Darling Basin) caught a lightning strike in October 2019 and about 4,000 ha was burnt. The reed beds needed flood water ASAP. While the reeds shot up after some rain fall that summer, they were using what little precious reserves their rhizomes held, making floodwater even more critical to their recovery.
The Drought Breaks
The flows came in February 2020, entering the Macquarie in several events through the Bell, Little and Talbragar Rivers – all of which are downstream of Burrendong Dam.
Shockingly, the first announcement of supplementary access was made on the 20th February, leading to over 12 GL being pumped from the vital first flow peak. The peak of the flow was taken, that meant that the area of wetland that potentially could have been inundated by the first flow was greatly reduced.
The shape of the hydrograph matters. The same volume of water flowing down the river over longer period of time wouldn’t have had the same potential to inundate as many hectares as the water arriving in one peak flow. The value of the peak of the flow to the environment in this circumstance was exponentially higher than the same volume of subsequent inflows at lower daily flow rates.
From a combined total of 84 GL flow at the Baroona gauge near Narromine, by 5 March 2020, 22.3 GL of this first flow had been recorded at Marebone Weir, with only 7 GL reaching the northern Macquarie Marshes.
Some of the flow was diverted by WaterNSW to other streams to meet stock and domestic replenishment flows, and some was extracted under a supplementary announcement. Much of the flow also performed a valuable role of soaking into alluvial aquifers and soils, filling pools in the river and meeting riparian needs for stock and domestic supply under basic landholder rights. An unknown volume was diverted by levys, and even more water was prevented from entering the river from floodplain harvesting.
By 1/3/2020, not even 1,200 ha of the 4,000 ha burnt North Marsh Reed bed had been inundated.
Timing matters. The reed bed needed to get that flood water as early as possible, so they could take advantage of the warmer summer days and get some growth up to store energy in their rhizomes for winter. It was not until late April 2020 that flood water finally made it to the northern most part of the charred reed bed, and into the Lower Macquarie River.
Because of the delay in flows reaching all of the fire damaged reed bed, the requirement for environmental water in the Macquarie Marshes was still classified as HIGH as of autumn 2020.
Why was supplementary access allowed?
Supplementary access has the lowest priority of water access, and should only be allowed once critical human need, and stock and domestic requirements downstream had been met. The go ahead to pump and divert was given before critical human need, and stock and domestic requirements downstream had been actually met (only forecast to be met).
By tweaking a rule, allowing critical need to be forecast, the peak of the very first flow after the drought broke was given the highest priority. Lucky for everyone it rained again……
The critical need for water in Macquarie Marshes after the worst drought in recorded history was ignored by NSW DPIE Water, who even ignored their own environmental water management team.
How much water does floodplain harvesting take in the Macquarie?
Floodplain Harvesting takes water from the floodplain for free, the volumes are unmeasured and therefore unknown. Healthy Rivers Dubbo has put together some available information to conservatively estimate the volumes involved.
From the Macquarie’s draft water resource plan, we know the the total on farm dam storage capacity in the valley is about 175 GL. Disregarding storage of off river schemes, and being very conservative, let’s say on farm dam storage close to the river that could catch water from the floodplain is about 70 to 90 GL.
Water from drought breaking flows that started in February didn’t reach the northern most part of the Marshes until late April.
When a third supplementary access event was announced in April, there was a relatively small amount of water extracted, indicating that the on-farm dams were already full of water.
Of course, this is an estimate, as the government still does not provide this information publicly. It could be even more then that.
I’ll just leave this here… last permanent trades in the Macquarie were $1,900 a ML, temporary trades were $200 a ML.
To the untrained eye (or those with conflicting vested interests), this spring the Marshes look green and healthy – but without the early arrival of the flows, damaging weeds like lippia have taken hold. How much of the 4,000 ha burnt reed bed will come back? Yet to be seen.
The real impact of the drought breaking flows being held back will be a scar on the landscape for many years.
The Macquarie River re-regulating dam is an extremely expensive, environmentally destructive project that will only benefit irrigators from Burrendong dam to Marebone weir. Like all dams, this project will benefit those upstream, and leave those downstream to survive if they can on ever drier river beds and floodplains.
So how can the NSW Government and WaterNSW present this project to the public in a palatable way? Enter the spin doctors.
The community was told in community consultations (hosted by GHD and WaterNSW) in November 2019 that the licenced environmental water holders supported the project, as their accounts will have more water in them, and there will be a fishway on the project.
WRONG – the project will mean a lot less freely flowing water in the Macquarie, and a little bit more water in licenced environmental accounts. The severe and permanent loss of habitat and the change in flow regimes will have devastating impacts on wildlife including endangered and threatened iconic Murray Cod, and centuries old river red gums – this damage cannot be ameliorated by a fishway.
The overall impact to the environment will be significantly negative. It has since been confirmed that the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holders’ Office, NSW DPIE EES, nor NSW Fisheries have never publicly endorsed the project. We were lied to.
At another public consultation in November 2019, the public were told that the project would be good for the Macquarie Marshes, because they get too much water and the roots of the plants rot. This is a direct lie that feeds into the narrative in this valley about the Marshes getting ‘too much water’.
There has been a long running and toxic campaign in the Macquarie Valley to paint the picture that the Macquarie Marshes gets too much water, perpetuated by vested interests upstream.
WaterNSW take advantage of this biased, untrue story when it suits them.
Earlier in 2020, Adrian Langdon from WaterNSW presented the following misleading graph to the public at a drought update hosted by Dubbo Regional Council.
PROBLEM #1 It appears the 20% shown here as ‘other flows to the Marshes’ is actually essential requirements (or delivery water). Essential requirements is the water used to deliver orders.
For reference, this pie graph shows a typical proportion of the water resource that is considered essential requirements – it’s usually the biggest piece of the pie by far.
WaterNSW are very proud of how tightly they operate the regulated section of the Macquarie River, reducing the volumes used to deliver orders to under 3% of delivered volumes. It is extremely unlikely that over a whole year any essential requirements water reached the Macquarie Marshes.
PROBLEM #2: The 38% ‘Flood Water on Floodplain’ includes vast, unmeasured and undeclared volumes of water that is diverted by levies for free into private storage – or floodplain harvesting. Healthy Rivers Dubbo estimates the volume taken in the valley in 2020 through floodplain harvesting was staggering – somewhere around 90 to 130 billion litres.
WaterNSW representing essential requirements on a graph as ‘other flows to the Marshes’ is outrageous and misleading.
Technically, essential requirements are classed as a type of Planned Environmental Water (PEW). When the NSW Government and WaterNSW are trying to present the message to the public that irrigation only takes a certain % of water from a river system (17% in the case of the Macquarie), they are very happy to imply that all water that isn’t taken for irrigation goes to the environment.
The Mayor of Narromine Craig Davis and Dugald Saunders MP Member for Dubbo are among those who publicly perpetuate the myth that 17% of flows on the Macquarie go to irrigation, and 80% goes to the environment.
This assertion is harmful and factually incorrect.
According to the above graph “Where Water Went”, 10% was managed for the environment including the Macquarie Marshes.
It is also possible that the public incorrectly believe that 17% of flows go to irrigation every year. The water shares owned by irrigation is more than those owned and managed for the environment. If flood events were taken out of the longterm average of water taken for irrigation, the % would be more like 45 – 60%.
When it comes to justifying the Macquarie River re-regulating storage however, the NSW government, WaterNSW and even the Mayor of Narromine and Member for Dubbo are strong in their assertion that operational surpluses belong to irrigators, and need to be physically recaptured and re-regulated.
Without clear, uniform definitions of environmental water, the Government and industry can pick and choose the definition the want to use to suit the message they want to spin.
Submission Guide: Inquiry into the rationale for, and impacts of, new dams and other water infrastructure in NSW – focus on Macquarie River reregulating project.
This inquiry is into the following projects: Wyangala dam wall raising, Mole River dam, Dungowan dam, Macquarie River reregulating storage project and the Western Weirs project. This submission guide refers specifically to the Macquarie River reregulating storage project. Please make that clear in your submission.
Some types of environmental water and unregulated flows, including inflows from the Talbragar, Bell and Little Rivers, could be captured by this project. There should be consistent rules across the Murray Darling Basin that protect all types of environmental water from extraction.
b) The economic rationale for the project:
The public don’t know the estimated cost of the project, we only know it is at least $30 million dollars because it’s classified State Significant Infrastructure.
The final business case will not be made public, despite a public promise from the Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders MP.
The volumes of extra water for general security customers, and the cost of the project will be in the final business case, those critical figures will not be available to the public.
The Member for Dubbo stated there would be “not one drop of water extra that goes to irrigation”, however increasing the volumes available for general security customers is an objective of the project.
There will be no high security town water licences held in the storage.
The extra water for general security will be coming from flows that are currently a type of environmental water. The environment will have much less water, even though there will be small increase in water available to the general security environment account.
Only general security irrigation customers will benefit from this project.
WaterNSW have had a legal obligation to construct a fishway at Gin Gin since 2011. The design has been done. WaterNSW should just install a fishway and reinforce the current Gin Gin weir instead of constructing a very large expensive new dam.
There is no sound socio economic case provided for this project.
The socio-economic impact of reduced flows downstream of Marebone weir will not be considered. Grazing, unregulated irrigation and tourism opportunities will be significantly negatively impacted by the project.
Towns like Warren and Carinda will be at an increased risk of the river running dry again.
Gin Gin is a very popular recreational site.
Unregulated, natural flows including flows entering the river from the Bell, Little and Talbragar Rivers are critically important for aquatic native animals and fish to breed, feed and migrate.
Natural flows carry nutrients, occur when the atmospheric conditions are just right, and are the correct temperature.
There will be drier conditions downstream, including the Macquarie Marshes. This will mean it will be a lot harder for the Macquarie River to connect to the Barwon-Darling Rivers.
The 30km weir pool will mean reduced water quality and increase erosion.
Marshes and migratory birds
The internationally significant Ramsar listed Macquarie Marshes are one of the most important waterbird breeding sites in Australia. Australia has a legal obligation to protect Ramsar wetlands.
A notice of “change of ecological character” was issued in 2010 because the condition of the Macquarie Marshes had deteriorated so much. The main reason for the notice was a change in flow regimes.
This project can only exacerbate the ongoing decline in the health of the Macquarie Marshes and therefore the habitat for 14 species of migratory birds, 10 colonial-nesting species, and a total of 233 native species of birds including 77 species of waterbird, some of which are listed as critically endangered.
The Marshes also provide habitat for 60 native reptile species, 11 species of native fish, 29 native mammals, 15 native frogs and 324 native plant species.
More details Professor Richard Kingsford submission to the EPBC referral here
Native fish and the riparian zone
The habitat of native fish listed as endangered and critically endangered under the NSW Fisheries Management Act and the Federal EPBC Act will be significantly impacted.
One of the last remaining significant Murray Cod breeding sites on the Macquarie is immediately downstream of the proposed dam.
The 30km weir pool would mean a loss of riffle zones, snag habitat, the inundation of spawning and recruitment sites. Details in the EPBC referral.
A 30km long weir pool of still water will cause Murray Cod eggs to sink and die.
The vegetation along the river, including centuries old River Red Gums, will likely drown due to extended periods of inundation.
The frequent fluctuations in water level will not provide vegetation or biofilm a suitable hold. Over time, this will mean the weir pool will not support a food web for native fish, reptiles, waterbirds or any other aquatic animals. Dr Martin Mallen-Cooper’s comments.
Transforming a moving part of the river to a still pool will suit carp and mosquito fish.
Fish passage at Gin Gin is very important and overdue. The compulsory fishway component of the re-regulating structure will not ameliorate the significant impacts the project would have on the habitat of threatened and endangered native fish and other aquatic animals.
Native Fish in the Macquarie River are already listed as an Endangered Ecological Community.
f) Other matters:
The project will likely have significant impacts on matters of national significance, and should not be assessed by the NSW Government who are the proponents of the structure, this is a clear conflict of interest.
The official document produced by the NSW Government that will inform the environmental impact statement for the Macquarie River re-regulating dam details the expected significant impacts on the habitat of threatened and endangered native species.
WaterNSW suggested in this document that the impact the project would have on the Ramsar listed Macquarie Marshes and on migratory birds would not be significant, however the Commonwealth Government disagreed, and found the expected impact will indeed by significant.
Here is a summary of the expected significant impacts taken directly from the document:
Change of flowing river habitats to pool habitat.
Loss of freshwater habitat types such as riffle zones due to inundation, and changes to flow regimes and water quality.
Impacts to aquatic habitats and riparian vegetation from the regular variability of water levels within the storage and the associated effects on river bank stability.
Loss or decrease of available recruitment areas, due to changes in available habitat.
Likely impacts to the structural elements that make up established habitat of vulnerable Murray Cod in the existing Gin Gin Weir pool, including potential spawning sites.
The new operational regimes may impact larval recruitment and the movement of fish in the locality.
Greater variability in the pool levels and altered fish passage opportunities at the location.
The alterations to important fish habitat in this locality and the potential operation effects on habitat and spawning for Trout Cod and Murray Cod may give rise to potentially significant impacts to these species.
Potential impacts to the aquatic environment are likely to be more marked with a more extensive pool created behind the reregulating structure than the existing weir, greater variability in the pool levels and altered fish passage opportunities at the location.
Potential direct impacts on threatened ecological communities within the project area may include inundation of vegetation as a result of impoundment.
Potential impacts to listed migratory species include:
• Loss or changes to habitat, including changing flowing river habitats to pool habitat
• Temporary displacement during construction activities
• Alterations to hydrological regimes
• Impacts to groundwater dependent ecosystems
• Impacts to aquatic habitats and riparian vegetation from the regular variability of water levels within the storage.
The Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) is a confederation of Sovereign First Nations from the Southern part of the Murray Darling Basin (MDB). The group currently includes Delegates from 24 Nations across Victoria, NSW, the ACT and South Australia.
MLDRIN understands that the construction and operation of the proposed Macquarie re-regulating structure will have significant detrimental impact on matters of national environmental significance, including a Ramsar wetland and Federally listed threatened species. The proposal will also have detrimental impact on places and species of profound cultural significance to Traditional Owners of the Wiradjuri and Wailwan Nations. We also wish to highlight that engagement and consultation with relevant First Nations has been grossly inadequate…..
… We wish to stress that the waterways and landscapes likely to be impacted by the Re-regulator project are of profound cultural significance to multiple First Nations groups. The referral documents indicate that consultation with these Nations has grossly inadequate and that erroneous understandings of First Nations people have underpinned engagement and project design.
MLDRIN is a peak representative body, advising the MDBA, as well as NSW agencies (including sections of the Department of Primary Industries and Environment) regarding appropriate consultation with First Nations on waterway management issues. MLDRIN has a formal statutory role under he Basin Plan to assess water resource plans prepared by State Governments. MLDRIN has received no formal notification or been engaged by the proponent on this project.
MLDRIN’s Wiradjuri Nation delegates have identified the Macquarie Marshes and Murray Cod as critical cultural assets. Existing issues with poor water quality, water extraction, regulation and pollution have already degraded these sacred values. The re-regulator project is likely to greatly exacerbate these impacts…..
…. MLDRN is also deeply concerned by statements indicating the likelihood of inundation of cultural heritage features around the Rocky Point area. The referral also indicates that ‘The nature of the recorded sites suggests that similar sites are likely to exist at other locations along the river and across the landscape.’ It is grossly inadequate to suggest that cultural heritage sites subject to induction and destruction can be substituted for other sites along the waterway. All cultural sites bear a unique testimony to cultural traditions and occupation of country and cannot be substituted.
MLDRIN is also deeply concerned that the 30km weir pool that would result from construction of the re-regulating structure will lead to inundation and drowning of ancient River Red Gums and other physical and biotic features of cultural significance In summary, MLDRIN is deeply concerned that this project will pose significant, new threats to a river system and associated features of National Environmental significance that are already critically stressed. The related cultural values are also likely to be significantly impacted, with poor First Nations consultation evident in the project design.