The NSW Government has announced the Reconnecting River Country Program (the program) to improve environmental, social and cultural outcomes for communities along the Murray and Murrumbidgee River systems. The program focuses on delivering local community benefits first and foremost, as part of the NSW Government’s continued commitment to delivering sensible, community driven Murray-Darling Basin Plan outcomes. It reimagines the previous Constraints Measures Program and has been developed based on extensive feedback from the local community.
About the program
The program aims to achieve a balance of economic, social, cultural and environmental outcomes across southern NSW by improving wetland and floodplain connectivity. The NSW Government has gone back to the drawing board, looked at the lessons learned from previous consultations and has designed a program focused on working collaboratively and extensively with the community to meet local needs, using the best available and most recent science and modelling. There will be a number of opportunities for communities to participate (PDF, 205.49 KB) in and contribute toward the ongoing development of the program with further details to come.
The program focuses on relaxing or removing some of the constraints or physical barriers impacting the delivery of water for the environment in the following areas in the southern-connected Murray–Darling Basin (the basin):
- Hume to Yarrawonga (Murray River)
- Yarrawonga to Wakool (Murray River)
- Murrumbidgee River.
A constraint is any physical, policy or operational barrier limiting the flow of water in river systems. There are a range of flow constraints in the basin, meaning rivers connect to their floodplains less often than is needed to maintain healthy river, wetland and floodplain ecosystems. The program aims to remove or relax these constraints.
The program is part of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM), which aims to achieve improved environmental outcomes using existing water for the environment. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority estimated the program is likely to prevent approximately 60GL of water purchases, meaning we can achieve strong environmental outcomes without negative economic consequences for our communities. It will enable water for the environment to be delivered more efficiently to connect rivers to floodplains more often without the need for further water purchases.
Solutions for the Lower Darling that were previously included in the former Constraints Measures Program are being considered as part of the rescope of the Menindee Lakes Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) project. More details will be available over the next few months and comprehensive community engagement will be carried out regarding any potential project options.
The program will potentially deliver important economic stimulus and benefit to regional economies in southern NSW. Importantly, it will also create healthier river systems providing generational benefits for local communities.
Implementation of the program will also potentially deliver a range of outcomes benefitting Aboriginal communities, such as improved connection between healthy Country and a healthy, vibrant, and sustainable Aboriginal culture and community.
Landholders, land managers and communities will see the benefits through investment in infrastructure and on-farm works, the potential for improved agricultural productivity for graziers due to floodplain flows, as well as improved recreational fishing and tourism.
The NSW Government will collaborate with stakeholders to ensure issues are identified and a suite of tools developed to mitigate any potential effects before making changes to existing rules, policies or infrastructure.
This may include new or upgraded infrastructure, easements or changes to river operating rules, which will be developed collaboratively with stakeholders as the program progresses.
Visit the program website to register your details for updates, ask a question and access further information.
Learn more about the program and its benefits by viewing the animations below.
Rivers are important to all of us. The Reconnecting River Country Program is an opportunity to ensure water for the environment can be delivered more efficiently to support healthy, productive waterways.
What do rivers need to stay healthy? Water for the environment is an important tool providing the flows our rivers need to support the plants, animals and people relying on it.
Understanding river flows to create inundation maps and plan for the future of our communities.
Finding the balance between all water users to ensure a healthy, sustainable future for our river systems. We have a way forward.
The program is funded by the Australian Government and is part of the NSW Government’s commitment to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
It is being led by the Department of Planning and Environment’s (the department) Water Infrastructure NSW in partnership with the department’s Environment and Heritage division and the Department of Regional NSW’s Local Land Services, who will work with landholders and communities across the southern basin to implement the program.
In delivering the program we are also working with:
- NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
- NSW Department of Primary Industries–Fisheries
- Murray–Darling Basin Authority
- Victorian Government.
The NSW Government is also bringing forward $330 million worth of its remaining SDLAM projects through the NSW SDLAM Acceleration Program. Two of these projects deliver outcomes within the Reconnecting River Country Yarrawonga to Wakool project, including:
We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land and we show our respect for Elders past, present and emerging through thoughtful and collaborative approaches to our work, seeking to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to providing places in which Aboriginal people are included socially, culturally and economically.