Submission to Floodplain Harvesting Amendment Dec 2020 – Healthy Rivers Dubbo

Submission Proposed legislative amendments for floodplain harvesting in NSW

Healthy Rivers Dubbo (HRD) is a grass roots community network dedicated to providing a strong voice for our local rivers, aquifers and wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin for the benefit of wildlife, plants and people. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and future, and acknowledge that this land was never ceded.

HRD supports the licencing and regulation of floodplain harvesting, however the impact of floodplain harvesting on the environment, First Nations communities and cultural values and downstream river communities must be assessed. HRD is pleased to have the opportunity to provide comment on the proposed legislative amendments for floodplain harvesting in NSW.

HRD objects to the four proposed amendments to the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018.

Floodplain harvesting (FPH) has had a significant impact on the resilience of the lower Darling-Bakka River, and of the tributary rivers that feed the Darling-Baaka where floodplain harvesting is concentrated – the Gwydir, Border Rivers, Barwon, Namoi and Macquarie.

Increasingly since 1994, FPH has denied significant volumes of water to floodplains, wetlands, aquifers, creeks and rivers. Denying these flows to the environment has resulted in landscapes being less resilient in dry times, and is a contributing factor to the Barwon and Darling Rivers ceasing to flow in November 2020.

Floodplain harvesting was mentioned as a contributing factor to the Menindee fish kills in the Independent assessment of the 2018-19 fish deaths in the lower Darling (Vertessy report)[1] and the SA Royal Commission into water management in the Murray Darling Basin. FPH was identified as a factor to the Barwon-Darling River being called an ecosystem in crisis in the Natural Resources Commission review of the Barwon Darling Water Sharing Plan in 2019.[2]

The significant and increasing impact that FPH has had on downstream environments, First Nations communities and critical human need requirements must be assessed before the hand out of several billions of dollars of tradable, compensable, mortgageable property rights in the form of FPH licences. As the Environmental Defenders Office and the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists recently published “…conferring permanent property rights to irrigators is a windfall transfer of public wealth that should be considered only once public good outcomes can be guaranteed.”[3]

The recent NSW ICAC investigation into water management[4] recommended:

That the DPIE publicly records:

• its water strategy, objectives and priorities for the use and management of NSW’s water resources in a manner consistent with the mandatory duty in s 9 of the WMA

• the need to ensure the water management principles in s 5, and in particular those that relate to sharing, as set out in s 5(3) of the WMA, are all given effect. Section 9 of the WMA should also inform relevant key departmental records, including agency policies, guidelines and role descriptions, concerning the management of NSW water resources.

The report highlighted what environmental stakeholders, graziers and communities along the Darling-Baaka have long understood – that the NSW DPIE Water (the department) make decisions that favour irrigation at the expense of First Nations cultural values, stock and domestic and critical human need requirements and the environment. ICAC found this bias comes from “a misguided effort to redress a perceived imbalance caused by the Basin Plan’s prioritisation of the environment’s needs”.

Environmental stakeholders have not seen any shift in this mindset from the department in recent times. An accidentally released email chain recently bought to light that members of the department have ‘regular catch-ups’ with NSW Farmers Association, NSW Irrigators Council and the Murray Darling Association. This sounds like a working alliance. Healthy Rivers Dubbo has only been involved in one environmental stakeholder briefing by the floodplain harvesting team.

The bias towards irrigation that informs decisions made by the department, as detailed in the ICAC report, is still evident in the four proposed rule changes to the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018.

1.         Water Management (General) Amendment (Floodplain Harvesting Exemption) Regulation 2020

This regulation seeks to exempt floodplain harvesting works from the requirement under the Water Management Act 2000 (WMA) to hold a water access licence and water supply work approvals.

HRD strongly objects to this amendment and the exemptions it would provide.

No FPH works should be granted approvals exemption before the implementation of metering, the granting of licences and the rules for FPH are set in the relevant Water Sharing Plans.

Water that has been taken by FPH has been counted as environmental water for modelling purposes. All we know about the types of volumes that are taken is that they are significant, and that the environment has been denied these significant volumes for decades. HRD has serious concerns about the modelling and accounting of the long-term annual average flows to the environment in each NSW Northern Basin Valley. HRD believes the NSW Government has a responsibility to assess the volumes and impacts of decades of FPH on the rivers of the Northern NSW Murray Darling Basin.

2.         Water Management (General) Amendment (Exemption for Rainfall Run-off Collection) Regulation 2020

HRD strongly opposes the granting of exemption to licence of rainfall runoff.

This exemption grants an unfair privilege to irrigation over other land holders, and again is an example of the misguided endeavours of the department to adjust their decision making to favour the irrigation over other stakeholders and the environment, as per the ICAC report. 

The volume suggested as rainfall runoff exemption in the Border Rivers Water Sharing Plan rules was larger than the volume that was designated to be returned to the environment. This exemption makes a mockery of the FPH licencing process.

Currently rainfall runoff is accounted for as Planned Environmental Water and modelled as remaining in the rivers. Not licencing this water is an erosion of Planned Environmental Water, which is against the objectives of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Rainfall runoff from irrigation fields that is contaminated and kept and used on farm that is above the 10% harvestable right must be licenced.

3.         Water Management (General) Amendment (Floodplain Harvesting Measurement) Regulation 2020

HRD is supportive of FPH works needing to be fitted with compliant metering, data logging and telemetry equipment and tamper-proof seals that needs to be fitted by a ‘duly qualified person’.

We object to a transition period for storages less than 1,000 megalitres or with infrequent use until 1st July 2022. All equipment must be installed and compliant by 30 June 2021.

We strongly object to a clause that allows the Minister to exempt an approval holder or a class of approval holders from the application of mandatory metering. If diversions cannot be measured and recorded, they should not have approval.

If metering equipment if faulty, no floodplain harvesting take should be allowed.

4.         Water Management (General) Amendment (Floodplain Harvesting) Regulation 2020

HRD is supportive of FPH take being licenced, however the debt owed to the environment from decades of unmeasured significant volumes of take must be assessed before licences are handed out.

HRD is concerned about the modelling data that is being used to calculate the Border Rivers draft Water Sharing Plan rules. We have no confidence in the 94 ‘cap’ figures being presented, as there is no clear line of site to the accredited cap reports to the presented figures.

By their nature floods usually occur when the environment and downstream users are desperate for water. This will coincide with on farm storages being empty, and if the department has its way, account balances many times the face value of the entitlement. FPH licences should not be issued until adequate downstream targets and rules that protect first flush events are in place.


As of December 2020 the Barwon-Darling Rivers have ceased to flow at Brewarrina and Bourke. Substantive volumes taken by FPH in Feb and March 2020 played a part in the rivers having little resilience in warm dry times.

Overland flows in the Northern NSW Murray Darling Basin from December 2020 to 30 June 2021 must be allowed to pass for the sake of the Ramsar wetlands, aquifers, First Nations communities and cultural values, struggling native fish populations, stock and domestic needs and critical human need.

The NSW Government must manage water extraction under the core requirements of the Water Management Act 2000. This includes the water sharing principles and associated duties imposed on decision makers to uphold them (ss. 5 and 9 of the Act).

This exemption amendment has been disallowed twice already by the NSW Legislative Council. In the light of the findings of the recent ICAC report, it is time for the department to assess the decision making processes that continually shows an unreasonable level of privilege and advantage to irrigation over other stakeholders.

For more information contact

Melissa Gray


Healthy Rivers Dubbo


[2] Final report Review of the Water Sharing Plan for the Barwon-Darling Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2012 September 2019



Concern in Mudgee for the future of the Macquarie Marshes

The planned re-regulating dam on the Macquarie River at Gin Gin would be a death knoll for the internationally recognised Ramsar listed Macquarie Marshes.

Worried about the future of the famous bird breeding wetlands, some Mudgee locals had a chance to chat with Dugald Saunders MP about the fast tracked Gin Gin project.

Mr Saunders was happy to stop and hear concerns from locals about how the project would take water from the environment’s share and make it available for extraction.

Current estimates are that between 14,000 and 25,000 megalitres of water on average every year will be taken from the river upstream of the Ramsar wetlands as a result of the Gin Gin project.

This water is critical for the health of the Marshes.

Water for the environment working hard in the Wambuul Macquarie Valley.

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.

And success!

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.

WaterNSW principle objectives – comment

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

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.

Priority One – irrigation. Not environment. Not people.

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.

Macquarie River, 20km downstream of Warren NSW, November 2019

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.

Dead Red Gums, Macquarie Marshes August 2019

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.

North Marsh reed bed, October 2019

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?


Source: NSW Govt, Floodplain Harvesting Measurement Policy March 2020.

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.

Spinning the Macquarie River message.

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.

This graph led to a member of the public writing a letter to the editor of a local paper claiming that 78% of water released from Burrendong dam from 2016- 2019 was for the environment. In truth, only 26% was released and managed for the environment.

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.

Make a submission – NSW Upper House Inquiry

Macquarie River reregulating storage project

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.

Submit Online: Upload Submission Document Here (fill out contact details on the first screen. Elect if you want your submission public on the second page. Upload a document on the third page).

Deadline: CoB Tuesday 22nd September 2020

For more details, see the full terms of reference: ToR


 Points to make about the Macquarie River reregulating storage project:

a) Fix the rules instead of building the project:

  • Water that isn’t in Burrendong is allocated to customers. Only water that is physically in Burrendong should be allocated. That would decrease the risk of the river and towns in the valley running out of water.
  • The NSW Government only look at drought records from before 2004 when working out water allocations.
  • WaterNSW only deduct the volume of water a customer pumps, not the volume they order. If they deducted what they ordered, there would be no need to build this structure.
  • 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.

c) The environmental and socio-economic impact:

  • A registered aboriginal heritage site will be destroyed.  
  • 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.

A Sobering Read – EPBC referral for the Macquarie River re-regulating dam

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.

Read the full document here: