A NSW Government website



Topics from the August 2022 webinar include the water sharing plans and the water management plans.

Macintyre River.

Water Engagement Roundup

Collateral from the webinar on Wednesday, 17 August 2022.

Watch the webinar

Peter summary description of the webinar

Questions and answers

The following are questions by topic asked from the registration and during the Water Engagement Roundup webinar.

Water sharing plans

Timeliness and usefulness of review/audit findings for NSW Water Sharing Plans, Strategies, MDB [Murray-Darling Basin] WRPs [Water Resource Plans] and broader policy development re timing and effectiveness.

A. The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) is required to audit water sharing plans within the first five years of each plan to determine if the provisions are being put into effective. Water sharing plans last for 10 years, so having an audit within the first five years of the plan is useful to identify any issues and recommend actions to the Department to address these.

The NRC reviews water sharing plans before the end of their 10-year term. There needs to have been enough time to allow the plan to be implemented to inform a review, which can mean plans are extended. A timeframe of roughly two years is required to replace a plan.

The review report helps provide information to the Department to identify any required changes to the plans.

The Department is working closely with the NRC to confirm the forward schedule for review and audits within the timeframes set under the NSW Water Management Act 2000.

How is NSW going to contribute to increasing our environmental flows as per the MDBP [Murray-Darling Basin Plan]?

A. Nearly 18% of NSW water entitlements belong to the environment, in addition to water that has been set aside through rules in the water sharing plans. Recovering water and using the volume for the best outcome is an ongoing focus. Long term goals are documented in long term water plans, and the Commonwealth environmental water holder also develops annual watering priorities. Several reform actions and watering plans are being developed to protect and deliver environmental water for improved outcome.

  • Active Management in the northern Basin: this protects held environmental water in the Barwon Darling and lower Macquarie and Gwydir Rivers.
  • Prerequisite Policy Measures in the Sothern Basin: These more efficiently recognise and manage return flows and losses from the use of held environmental water in the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys.
  • Resumption of Flow Rule in the Barwon Darling: this protects the first flow from extraction, following drought.
  • Regional water strategies – a focus of the Western Regional Water Strategy is to improve connectivity from the northern tributaries, and into the Barwon Darling and lower Darling Rivers. This includes triggers and targets for s324 temporary water restrictions in the northern basin.
  • Constraint relaxation: More efficient delivery of environmental water on River Murray
  • Environmental Watering Plans: The environmental water holders releases annual watering plans for regulated river valleys that guide the use of environmental water. These are based on long term water plans.

Can you advise when the Water Sharing Plan for the Taylors Arm & Coastal areas will be done.

A. Taylors Arm Water Source falls within the Nambucca River Extraction Management Unit to which the Water Sharing Plan for the Nambucca Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2016 applies. This water sharing plan is due to expire on 30 June 2027. The review of this water sharing plan is scheduled to occur in the 2025-26 financial year.

Can you advise if all plans were reviewed after five years as I am sure the water users in our areas are not aware of any review taking place.

A. It is a requirement under the Water Management Act 2000 for the Minister is to consider the Natural Resources Commission’s (NRC) review report before deciding whether to extend or replace a plan. The NRC started its first round of water sharing plan reviews in 2012, with a report on 31 water sharing plans published in 2013. From 2012 to date the NRC has reviewed 60 water sharing plans. The scope of these reviews varies given amendments to the Water Management Act 2000 over the past 10 years.

A list of the completed reviews and the associated reports is available on the NRC website.

The NRC calls for public submissions at the start of each review. In order to notify stakeholders the NRC places ads in local papers, sends a notification to every licence holder, provides notice on its website and emails stakeholders who have registered to be notified.

The forward plan for reviews is available on the NRC’s website.

Where can I get a copy of the Framework for reviewing water sharing plans?

A. A copy of the draft NRC review evaluation framework is available on the NRC website and is open for comment until Sunday 18 September 2022.

Aboriginal Water Strategy – who has been engaged to develop the strategy?

A. In 2021 NSW Water Strategy - Priority 2 actions were co-designed by Aboriginal water peak bodies:

2.1 Strengthen the role of First Nations/Aboriginal People in water planning and management

2.2 Develop a state-wide Aboriginal water strategy

2.3 Provide Aboriginal ownership of and access to water for cultural and economic purposes

2.4 Work with First Nations/Aboriginal People to improve shared water knowledge

2.5 Work with First Nations/Aboriginal People to maintain and preserve water-related cultural sites and landscapes.

A draft Aboriginal Water Strategy is being developed. It will include co-designed ‘First Principles’ drawing on significant First Nations/Aboriginal engagements from 70 workshops conducted in recent years on Water Resource Planning and Regional Water Strategies.

  • Culture – Acknowledge the central role of water in Aboriginal culture, and the inter-dependencies with economic, social and environmental outcomes
  • Health and Wellbeing – Acknowledge that water (quality and quantity) is critical to sustaining healthy communities, which underpins the ability to live on and care for Country
  • Country – Improve and enable access to Country to maintain healthy waterways
  • Engagement – Improve and enable access to Country to maintain healthy waterways
  • Economic – Seek opportunities to use existing water and access to additional water to generate employment and business ventures
  • Shared benefits – Seek opportunities to use water allocated for environmental and consumptive purposes to deliver Aboriginal outcomes and benefits where synergies exist.

An Aboriginal Water Strategy Co-design process with community is planned for 2023. Relationships with other government agencies and First Nations/Aboriginal stakeholders are being enveloped to support this work. An Engagement Framework will be developed to support consultation on the Draft Aboriginal Water Strategy.

What about the possibility of a WSP being changed for the Upper Belubula to allow a mine to access a large amount of the water in that water source? Is that being reviewed?

A. The water sharing plan that applies to the regulated Belubula River (Water Sharing Plan for the Belubula Regulated River Water Source 2012) is due to expire 30 June 2023. A review of the plan is currently being undertaken by the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) and is anticipated to be completed in early-mid 2023 ahead of plan expiry. The Water Sharing Plan for the Lachlan Unregulated River Water Sources 2012 that applies to the Belubula Tributaries below Carcoar Dam Water Source is also currently being reviewed by the NRC.

If you would like to provide input to these reviews, please contact the NRC at nrc@nrc.nsw.gov.au. Work is being progressed by the Department in parallel.

Although there seems to be an army of departments and many soldiers - how does it happen that they call meetings that few people are aware of and plans which have expired not considered in a timely manner. Meetings back in June were not well notified and many could not attend - the timing was so poor! Can you guarantee that notification of meetings and location of meetings will be beneficial for water users? Communication with water users is key to this process. How can we be sure it will be an open and transparent process?

A. The Department utilises several approaches of notification of upcoming consultation activities and seeks to ensure that meeting times and locations suit local areas. Notification approaches can include direct emails, newspaper advertisements, live radio advertisements (morning shows), social media content, letters and online internet information. Where possible, the Department offers both face to face and online consultation to ensure stakeholders can access information through a variety of forums.

This forum, the Water Engagement Roundup, is a regular monthly webinar that provides a “roundup” of current engagement activities. Our have your say webpage provides a summary of current engagement activities. We also encourage signing up to our monthly Water newsletter, where we publicise details of engagement activities.

Water management plans

How do water management plans protect the Lower Darling in periods of drought?  How will these protocols change to allow consideration of future climate change droughts to ensure protection of the riverine environment and those that rely on her? Current flow targets seem arbitrary and not linked to any outcomes.

A. The Department has recently undertaken consultation on critical dry condition triggers to reduce risk to environmental and human water needs, as part of consultation for the Western Regional Water Strategy.

Additional restrictions need to be put in place during dry times to stop water extraction so that the remaining water can be used for environmental and human water needs. Restrictions also need to be put in place to protect the first flush of water after it rains.

In the past, these restrictions have been implemented by Ministerial order under section 324 of the Water Management Act - these sit outside of the water sharing plans. In future, these triggers could be inserted into water sharing plans so that section 324 orders are no longer required.

What happens if NRC audit recommendations are totally ignored by the responsible agencies?

A. The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) carries out its audits in line with its role under section 44 of the Water Management Act 2000.  Where the NRC identifies findings that implementation of water management plans has not occurred in line with the requirements of the plan being audited, it will make a recommendation to the relevant government agency.

In developing the audit recommendations, the NRC seeks to gain agreement on findings and recommendations with the agencies audited to ensure they are accurate and appropriate. As part of this process, the Department works with the NRC to provide information to inform the audit and to provide feedback on the proposed findings. The NRC has final decision as auditor on findings and recommendations.

A response from the Department is provided to the NRC on the final audit recommendations which may include how the Department has considered the audit recommendations, an outline of the work the Department is progressing to contribute to addressing the matters identified within the audits, and if the Department does not support the recommendations and why. The NRC publishes this response on its website. If the Minister for Lands and Water provides a response to the final audit report, the NRC will also publish this on its website.

The Department provides periodic updates to the NRC on its status against audit recommendations – progression or adoption of recommendations may change over time dependent on Department priorities, resources or policies.

Could you explain a little more about the idea of aligning review or audit of floodplain management plans and Water Sharing Plans?

A. Audit processes occur within the first five years for all water management plans as required under section 44 of the Water Management Act 2000. Timing of review differs between plans – for Water Sharing Plans in the last five years, for Floodplain Management Plans it is required at year 5 of the plan term. With the review occurring at year 5 for the Floodplain Management Plans this means there is limited information provided in the last five years of the plan to inform the plan replacement. The Department is seeking to change the timing of the review for these plans to occur within the last five years of the plan term.