NSW Member for Murray, Shooters Fishers and Farmers MP Helen Dalton, has hit back at a NSW government claim she has misunderstood a new regulation enabling floodplain harvesting.
Mrs Dalton told FlowNews24 you could 'drive a truck through this regulation', saying of the government's claims that she didn't understand the regulation:
"Look, that's rubbish - this regulation really allows irrigators to harvest an unlimited amount of water under the guise of emergency provisions.
"It's incredibly ambiguous, it does cast a wide net and can take in floodplain harvesting of an unlimited amount of water.
When pressed on circumstances like the current floodwater events in northern New South Wales, Mrs Dalton said this was a good example of where harvesting under an emergency guise could occur, but had no faith that the government would be able to prevent diversion of the water towards later irrigation use:
"There's really no way to police this.
"Although they're saying you're not allowed to use it for irrigation, but there's no regulator to stop them doing that. And you're supposed to report this, that you're going to take water, you're supposed to report it to the regulator - really no-ones going to do that. There's a miniscule, measly fine for doing that, $1,500 dollars so it's pretty cheap water."
On Thursday, a Department of Primary Industries and the Environment spokesperson told FlowNews24:
"This regulation has nothing to do with floodplain harvesting.
"In fact, it specifically excludes taking or using water for domestic consumption, supply or any other use of commercial benefit – which are all of the primary uses of floodplain harvesting.
"This regulation actually protects all public and private entities from any prosecution for doing essential emergency work.
"Previously, these entities may have acted in emergencies without actual licences and approvals to authorise the work.
"Consultation on this regulation did take place. The Department consulted with WaterNSW, Sydney Water, Hunter Water, the NSWWater Directorate and the Hire and Rental Industry Association of Australia (HRIA) to ensure the definition of an emergency event covers a range of circumstances.
"DPIE Water also consulted with the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) from initial discussions in early September to develop a definition of emergency circumstances and discuss the practicalities of emergency situations so compliance and enforcement would be effective."
Listen to Mrs Dalton's comments via the Morning Show on the FlowNews24 podcast player below: