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Engagement – May 2023

Topics from the May 2023 webinar include floodplain management and an update on the regional water strategies.

Macintyre River.

Water Engagement Roundup

The following are questions by topic asked from the registration and during the Water Engagement Roundup webinar recorded on Wednesday 17 May 2023 on the subjects of inland water sharing plans and southern floodplain management plans.

Watch the webinar

Wednesday, 17 May 2023 webinar.

Questions and answers

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

General enquiries

How will consultation on plans due in July 2024 be timed?

A. The Water Management Act requires 40 days for the public exhibition consultation period. Consultation times may be extended at certain periods, such as Christmas, but this is avoided where possible. For example, consultation for the Lower Darling and the Murray unregulated plans will be placed on public exhibition together and each for a period of 40 days.

Do you have access to the raw data that WaterNSW holds?

A. Yes, access is available to the data held by WaterNSW.

Is the modelling in-house?

A. The modelling is partially in-house and partially external.

Can the approval of floodworks be retrospective?

A. No, floodworks are not approved retrospectively. In some circumstances approval may be granted for existing (unapproved) floodworks, however the approval is valid from the date it was granted, not retrospectively. This approval will be subject to an assessment against the current legislation, including the Floodplain Management Plan in place at the time of determination, not when the works were built. Most applications for floodworks are subject to assessment by WaterNSW, for further details visit flood work approvals.

Or to apply for a new or amended Floodwork Approval visit applications and fees.

Unapproved floodworks are at risk of compliance action by the Natural Resource Access Regulator (NRAR).

How is the business case for Wyangala Dam progressing and is it still a high priority with the department?

A. The Wyangala team are finalising the business case before being presented to the Minister for Water.

Water sharing plans

Will the recommendations from the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) reviews be adopted? 

A. For each unregulated water sharing plan, the department has adopted most of the NRC recommendations. Sometimes recommendations are not adopted, as time is needed to consider or resolve when a water sharing plan is remade.

Please clarify which water resource plans have to be withdrawn and resubmitted. 

A. In late 2022, the department formally submitted three surface water plans, including the Murrumbidgee, Lachlan and Intersecting Streams. Discussions are taking place with the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) about withdrawing the Lachlan. We have not received feedback from the MDBA about withdrawing the other two.

The other six surface water plans were submitted in February. We provided the MDBA with these surface water plans in September and October 2022. They had provided feedback on those plans in January 2023 and the department is still determining this feedback.

Floodplain harvesting regulations were rolled out and the amendment and release of licenses for the Macquarie and Barwon Darling water sharing plans. The department will withdraw the Macquarie and Barwon Darling water resource plans to amend and include the floodplain harvesting provisions.

Please provide reasons why some water resource plans may be withdrawn? Is the feedback from the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) material? Are they seeking change to the planned environmental water issue?

A. The issue with planned environmental water is mostly settled and this type of water in the NSW Water Sharing Plans is also part of the planned environmental water in the water resource plan. The MDBA has taken a broader view of planned environmental water. There are a number of rules to include that may not to be a provision but are included in the water resource plan. It will not have a direct impact on how the department does business.

Does the department feel that the MDBA has taken a consistent approach with NSW, as to the other Basin states, in where this issue has now landed?

A. The NSW Water Management Act structure means that what we consider planned environmental water under our water sharing plans is planned environmental water for the purposes of the MDBA.

Some people like to compare what has happened under the water resource plans in NSW with the Victorian water resource plans. But Victoria does not define planned environmental water in the same way that NSW does under the NSW Water Management Act or the water sharing plans. The difference is the way the state Acts define planned environmental water.

Will the department have to withdraw the Namoi for floodplain harvesting consideration? 

A. Yes. The timing and process of withdrawing will depend on when the Namoi water sharing plan is amended to include the floodplain harvesting provisions.

Floodplain management plans

How will you determine what is illegal when there has not been a previous plan?

A. The plans cover some new areas and a floodwork approval is required under the NSW Water Management Act for all floodworks, regardless of whether there is a floodplain management plan in place. If you have put a structure on a floodplain, then floodworks approval must be sought from WaterNSW.

Will there be a program of removing illegal floodplain works across Basin catchments?

A. Once a plan is in place, the removal or modification of illegal works is the responsibility of the NRAR. The department will provide information to NRAR where appropriate, while moving through the development of the floodplain management plans. There is a program in the north, ‘Improving Floodplain Connections’, which is going through the process of identifying hotspots where works may need to be modified or removed to meet the requirements under the floodplain management plans.

How do the floodplain management plans interact with council floodplain risk management plans?

A. Floodplain management plans deal with floods and how water moves across the landscape, rather than a town. The department develops plans for rural areas and councils develop plans specific to towns.

Town floodplain management plans are managed by the Environment and Heritage Group and we work closely together to ensure that our plans are consistent with the council floodplain risk management plans.

For the June in person sessions, what information on the floodplain management plans will be provided?

A. The southern floodplain management public information sessions are planned to collect information and answer questions relevant to your community. Information will be compiled as a result of the community engagement, to develop better floodplain management plans that incorporate our early modelling work.

Every flood is different, is this going to be taken into consideration? Was the recent flooding recorded, are there statistics to share such as flow, duration, height?

A. The flood model is calibrated against data for each flood to account for the way different floods occur. The biggest flood on record acted quite differently to the flooding in 2022. The department seeks updated information for each flood event. Using that information from each event, we update our model to understand what might be changed or how water might move across the floodplain.

Although public information on the latest floods is held by the NSW government and the Bureau of Meteorology, the purpose of targeted consultation in regional communities is to collect any other data that might be available. We hope to gather information from river gauges, aerial photography, and local level information from people that can be quite helpful for us in developing the floodplain management plans.

Does the area to be covered in the presentation include the main area of Coleambally Irrigation Corporation Limited operations?

A. The presentation showed an indicative map that the plans will cover. Feedback will be sought during targeted and public consultation. During the development of the floodplain management plan, if there is a compelling case for including a broader footprint, then this can be incorporated to include additional areas.

There has been significant work undertaken by the Reconnecting River Country Program, will this be taken into consideration, in addition to local knowledge?

A. This work relates to modelling and recording the recent flooding event. Yes, we are working closely with the Reconnecting River Country Program and we will use their information, where it fits into our models. Some of their modelling information has already been picked up.

Regional water strategies

When do you expect to undertake community meetings on the Lachlan regional water strategy?

A. To enable Lachlan residents and businesses to focus on the flood recovery, community consultation was put on hold following the record floods of 2022. The department is briefing the Minister for Water on a range of projects and programs, including the regional water strategies. We will have a clearer timeline for the Lachlan strategy, including community consultation in the coming months.