The NSW Government says it will stand by local river communities and refuse to give over anymore water in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan until a new agreement is reached.
A list of four demands has been put on the table for the meeting of water ministers on December 17 in Brisbane.
The demands are:
- The Federal Government agree that NSW will not contribute to the 450GL of additional water recovery efforts.
- The barrages on the Lower Lakes lifted to allow seawater back into Lake Alexandrina.
- Transmission losses in the system are taken into account as water returned to the environment.
- The Federal Government agree that NSW Water resource plans will not be progressed until the drought has broken.
The demands were revealed by NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro and Minister for Water Melinda Pavey in Sydney today (Tuesday).
Mr Barilaro said NSW "has no more water to give and the Federal Government has nowhere left to turn and must respond to these concerns and implement changes".
"We simply can no longer stand by the Murray Darling Basin Plan in its current form, the Plan needs to work for us, not against us," Mr Barilaro said.
"It is clear our communities in regional NSW have had enough, and today we stand with them. NSW is being crippled by the worst drought on record and our future is at risk. The Plan should be flexible, adaptive and needs to produce good environmental outcomes for this State. I refuse to let regional communities die while we wash productive water into the Great Australian Bite, 1000km away.
"It is patently wrong to ask NSW to give up more water during the worst drought on record. It not only fails the pub test but it defies any supposed benefit to the environment in NSW."
NSW Labor accused Mr Barilaro of raising "false hopes".
The demands come after a large rally of irrigators and other interested parties went to Canberra to seek some redress for loss of water allocations.
Ms Pavey said the MDBP was never intended to be an unaltered, static document.
"The regional communities in NSW are being sailed up the river by the Commonwealth and South Australia is holding every other state to ransom," Ms Pavey said.
"NSW has already done the heavy lifting and our communities are suffering as a result. South Australian lower lakes are full while NSW communities are dry."
A NSW bid to get sea barrages opened up at Lake Alexandrina is extremely controversial as the barrages protect a large aquaculture and help maintain fresh drinking water for stock and people.
In a MDBA fact sheet it declared the barrages were an important world-recognised method of stopping salination of the lakes near the Murray mouth:
"During the recent drought, MDBA and the South Australian government considered opening the barrages to allow sea water to raise the levels in the lakes, in the absence of fresh water inflows. However, the available scientific studies indicated that there were serious potential risks to the environment in so doing - introducing large quantities of sea water to the Lower Lakes may cause some species to be lost and others to decline, depending on their tolerances. In addition, the new ecosystems that have established over the last 75-odd years since the barrages were constructed are of significant environmental value, and are protected by the international Ramsar convention."
NSW Labor said in a release: "NSW National Party Leader John Barilaro, and National Party Water Minister Melinda Pavey have once again trotted out bluster and empty rhetoric about the Murray Darling Basin Plan while the water crisis across NSW gets worse and while families across the regions are suffering from the effects of the drought".
"Mr Barilaro and Ms Pavey have been playing these sorts of political games for months, with ever more outlandish threats to rip up the MDBP and resign from the cabinet, but this empty bluster has always come to nothing.
"The National Party's empty threats to rip up the MDBP would completely deregulate water allocations across NSW. There are already existing provisions within the MDBP to prioritise critical human needs above all others, but neither Mr Barilaro nor Ms Pavey seem to understand this at all."
Labor Shadow Minister for Water Clayton Barr said: "Barilaro is being cruel and heartless in his childish antics, raising false hopes for communities along the Murray, when in reality his threats and words count for nothing."
"The National Party's so called plan of ripping up the MDBP is really a plan to not have a plan. Water allocations will become the wild west - and you had better be a National Party donor otherwise you will be last in line."
"Look no further than the Barwon-Darling system that has been ruined by this Government. Now they want to get their hands on the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers as well."