Who's at the wheel on NSW water decisions?

Pumping embargo outrage riddled with confusion

Editorial
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Melinda Pavey's decision to enforce the pumping embargo with no concessions would have let more water downstream, hence the irony in the Greens' position.

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The Greens, among others, are off target with their criticism of Water Minister Melinda Pavey for letting northern irrigators pump from recent river flows, from February 10-13 (also see p9). While ultimately responsible, she's not the only person with these powers.

It was staff within the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment with executive powers who actually signed off the approval.

The embargo on pumping, however, was triggered by Mrs Pavey.

On the premise that the high flows might damage on-farm infrastructure, the bureaucrats over-rode Mrs Pavey's embargo, which initially wasn't going to let any pumping occur at all.

This infrastructure, though, is built on water course country.

Wouldn't it therefore be better to just call a spade a spade and explain that the ability to irrigate on these farms is important for generating local income and jobs and is also an important part of the farm value?

A good flow in those rivers has been a long time coming, so those farmers will be pleased to see some water in their dams and the prospect of a crop or two, now that they've likely got some stored water in addition to some soil moisture from the rain.

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They'll be planting seed and ordering fertiliser, or chemical to manage weeds, to prepare for a winter crop for the first time in two or three years.

The concern therefore is the bureaucratic confusion between the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and Mrs Pavey, given decisions have been made in direct conflict with the Water Minister.

This is also the same department that confirmed earlier this year that the Yanco Creek regulator would still progress.

This was despite it being part of the 450 gigalitre delivery plan (under the Basin Plan) that Mrs Pavey last year said was undeliverable.

There's clearly a breakdown here in communication, as well as with delegation of responsibility.

Meanwhile, in enforcing the embargo, Pavey has triggered the mechanism introduced by former Water Minister Niall Blair.

Her decision to enforce the pumping embargo with no concessions would have let more water downstream, hence the irony in the Greens' position, which also gives away their poor grasp of this important issue.

Melinda Pavey, welcome to Niall Blair's world of water pain.

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