Media Release: Chance to fix broken water rules in the Wambuul-Macquarie

13 October 2022

The second draft of the Macquarie-Castlereagh Regional Water Strategy is on public exhibition until November 1st.

Two webinars are being held Monday 17th, and Monday 24th. To register, go to the website.

Regional Water Strategies for the state were triggered by the severe 2017-2020 drought, which saw flows in the Wambuul-Macquarie River cut off at Warren, native fish rescued from shrinking green pools, and communities like Nyngan and Dubbo months off ‘day zero’.

The strategy includes climate change predictions that suggest the chances of another severe drought happening again could rise from a one in a thousand year event, to a one in thirty year event by 2070.

Inflows into Burrendong dam could halve in the next 50 years.

Mel Gray, Convenor of Healthy Rivers Dubbo said:

“It’s obvious a lot of work has gone into this strategy over a long time. There are a lot of great innovative ideas, but some worrying ones as well”

“It is irresponsible to keep managing water releases from Burrendong dam based on rainfall data from before 2003. Ignoring the recent unprecedented, severe drought, and allocating water as if it never happened is bordering on negligent.”

“Common sense dictates that enough water should be kept in Burrendong Dam to make sure Dubbo and other communities have enough water to survive more frequent and severe droughts. Town water security is the reason that tax payer money paid for that dam in the first place.”

“The only purpose the controversial Gin Gin re-regulating dam project would serve is to allow even more water to be taken from the river. The significant damage the dam would cause to native fish habitat and the Ramsar Macquarie Marshes is well documented. It’s time to scrap the Gin Gin dam dud of a project.”

“Reducing the size of the flood mitigation zone of Burrendong dam would put Dubbo at a higher risk of being flooded. After the events of this week, it’s ludicrous that this option is even mentioned in the strategy.”

Media Contact

Mel Gray – Convenor, Healthy Rivers Dubbo 0431 471 310

Media Release: Transparency from NSW Government still hard to find.

30th January 2022

Repeated calls for the NSW Government to publically release the final business cases for a series of dam proposals continue to be ignored, despite the government ranking improved transparency as their number one priority in the State Water Strategy.

The Legislative Council Portfolio Committee No.7 Planning and Environment Rationale for, and impacts of, new dams and other water infrastructure in NSW: Part 2 report was tabled in parliament on September 20 2021. Last Friday the NSW Government released its response to the report.

The Part 2 report covers Dungowan dam, Mole River dam, Macquarie River re-regulating storage project (aka the Gin Gin dam), Western weirs and Menindee Lakes water savings project.

Referring to the Dungowan proposal the government response bluntly states “… the Final Business Case will not be publically available”.

“How can the public trust that the impacts the Gin Gin dam would have on wetlands, fish, birds and freshwater mussels downstream is being fully considered, if we don’t get to see the business case?” Said Mel Gray, convenor of Healthy Rivers Dubbo.

The purpose of the Gin Gin dam on the Macquarie/Wambuul River is to provide more water to fill the existing irrigation entitlements in the valley[1]. While the government response promises the significant ecological impacts of less water to the struggling Ramsar listed Macquarie Marshes[2] will be taken into consideration, it seems unlikely the government will show the public its findings.

“The Perrottet government are claiming in the State Water Strategy that their number one priority in water management is to ‘Build community confidence and capacity through engagement, transparency and accountability’. While at the same time they are steadfastly refusing to act on community calls to release crucial details. 

“By hiding from the public how big the impacts downstream will be, the government are making communities very nervous.

“Taking more water out of rivers upstream will mean less for First Nations communities, towns, recreational fishers, campers, graziers and water users downstream – it couldn’t be more simple!” Ms Gray said.

Media Contact

Mel Gray – Convenor, Healthy Rivers Dubbo 0431 471 310

[1] ref DPIE.DIP.507 Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund Project Proposal Appendix A 

[2] Notification of likely change in ecological character of the Macquarie Marshes Ramsar site to the Ramsar Secretary General on 17 July 2009 under Article 3.2 of the Ramsar Convention. 

Proposed re-regulating dam set to destroy the best Murray Cod breeding spots in the Macquarie-Wambuul River

Media Release – Thursday 18th November 2021

The most important breeding sites for threatened Murray Cod in the Wambuul-Macquarie River have been identified in a report[1] released by the Commonwealth Government on Thursday, and they are right where the NSW Government plans to build an enormous new dam. 

All four of the monitoring sights near Gin Gin used for the study would be destroyed by the proposed Macquarie River re-regulating storage project, known locally as the Gin Gin dam.  

“This zone has previously been identified as a strong-hold for Murray cod recruitment within the Macquarie River” wrote the report’s author Jerom Stocks.

The report shows that water for the environment was used during Spring 2020 to provide stable flows to support Murray Cod nesting during the peak breeding period, and that water management by environmental water holders and community stakeholders was successful. [2]

However all the efforts and success of water for the environment would be for nothing should the NSW Governments plans to construct a new dam at Gin Gin go ahead.

“Murray Cod are listed as threatened, and are supposed to be protected by the Commonwealth Government. How can the NSW Government even consider building a destructive dam directly over their best breeding areas?” Said Mel Gray, Convenor of Healthy Rivers Dubbo. 

The Wambuul Macquarie River is a well know destination for recreational anglers chasing the iconic Murray Cod.

“Tourism is absolutely huge for the economy of this region, and any major infrastructure project that has a detrimental impact on tourism has the potential to be a disaster for our region.” said Councillor Stephen Lawrence, Mayor of Dubbo Region.

“To build a dam in the Mid-Macquarie River would be detrimantal to the breeding cycle and improvement of not only the Murray Cod, but Eeltail Catfish, Yellow Belly, Spangled Perch, Platypus, Turtles and everything.” Said Wayne Gilbert, President of the Inland Waterways Rejuvenation Association.

Media Contact

Mel Gray – Convenor Healthy Rivers Dubbo




Media Release – Govt Inquiry highlights worry over Gin Gin dam

Media Release

Wednesday 28th July 2021

Government Inquiry highlights worry over Gin Gin dam impacts

A parliamentary committee report looking at the controversial proposal to build a large ‘re-regulating’ dam in the Macquarie Rivers at Gin Gin was released today. The committee says they have ‘significant concerns about the potential negative ecological impacts’ of the proposal.

Community concern that WaterNSW won’t keep their hands off tributary inflows from below Burrendong dam is shared by the committee. The report says the lack of clarity regarding the use of tributary flows for water orders and how this will change as a result of the project is concerning.

“When this project was looked at as part of the Macquarie Priority Catchment Study, the plan was to take water from all sources. Now they say they won’t catch tributary inflows, but the economics of that doesn’t stack up. ” says Mel Gray, Convenor of Healthy Rivers Dubbo.

The committee heard that the best way to secure water for people and the environment is to improve the way water is managed in NSW.

The project poses a significant threat to remaining native fish populations in the Macquarie River. “The weir pool created by this dam proposal would destroy 32 km of habitat in and along the river. Population of threatened Murray Cod can’t bounce back after drought without habitat.” Said Ms Gray.

The report featured a warning from Professor Richard Kingsford that Australia is failing to meet its international obligations to protect Ramsar listed wetlands. Many waterbird communities are long-term decline as a result of historic water allocations and decreased river flows into major wetlands.

“There is certainly no environmental benefit of building that [Gin Gin] weir and there is a lot of risk in terms of downstream impacts, not just to the environment – the river – but also to the rural communities downstream.” Professor Kingsford was quoted as saying in the report.

Media Contact

Mel Gray

Convenor Healthy Rivers Dubbo


Report No 8 PC7 Rationale for, and impacts of, new dams and other water infrastructure in NSW – Part 2

Media Release – Playing favourites on the floodplains

Media Release

Playing favourites on the floodplains

Floodplain harvesters’ use levee banks to divert water that either falls as rain or breaks out of the river bank during floods into private dams. It has been an unmeasured form of free water collection, believed to have increased since 1994 by almost two and a half times.

Floodplain harvesting has contributed to dehydrated floodplains and wetlands, less resilient rivers and depleted aquifers. It has contributed to the rapid decline in size and health of the Ramsar listed Macquarie Marshes, and has been identified in several reports as a key contributor to the mass fish kills in the Lower Darling in 2019.

The NSW Government have been touting that by licencing the controversial practice, they are bringing water take back in line with the Cap Limit on extraction set in 1994, and returning some critically important flood flows to the ailing river systems of the west.

However the Macquarie will be missing out on seeing any water returned to the valley, as the NSW Government – keeping true to their form of prioritising irrigation over everyone else – have increased the Cap Limit, and are claiming that floodplain harvesting can remain at current levels.

It is stated that the volume of the individual entitlements that have been arrived at is significantly inaccurate, and yet NSW still want to allow users to take five times their licence volume when a flood comes and gift them five times the water on their licence to get started. On top of that when the significantly inaccurate licence volumes are corrected, compensation will be paid.

Quotes attributable to Mel Gray, Convenor of Healthy Rivers Dubbo 

“It is bewildering that the Government can wave a magic wand and claim less water is being taken now than in 1994, when we can see the wetlands, rivers and fish dying in front of our eyes.

“You would think the government would use the best available science and actual real life data to work out the volumes of these new licences seeing so much is at stake, but the modelling they used is rubbish.

“Despite having since 2008 to collect real data, the NSW Government have instead used secretive models to come with some rubbery numbers to convert into big, valuable, tradable, mortgageable compensable floodplain harvesting licences.

“We are being ripped off momentously. Our rivers and wetlands are being sacrificed as billions of dollars in property rights are being granted to an elite minority.”

Media Contact

Mel Gray, Convenor Healthy Rivers Dubbo – 0431 471 310

Download Healthy Rivers Dubbo submission on FPH rules in the Macquarie Valley