Conservation council takes legal action against NSW government over water-sharing plan

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A leading conservation organization is taking extraordinary legal action against a NSW government water-sharing plan, alleging that the government and two ministers violated water management law.

The NSW Nature Conservation Council alleges that the government’s plan failed to adequately consider the future impact of climate change on the state’s water systems and, in particular, on border rivers.

They dispute the validity of the water sharing plan for the NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source Order 2021, also known as the Border Rivers Water Sharing Plan (WSP).

In NSW, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is built around 58 individual WSPs.

The council is represented by the Office of Environmental Defenders, which brought the case to the NSW Land and Environmental Court.

Council chief executive Chris Gambian said the case was an international first.

“This is the first court case in the world challenging a watershed-wide water-sharing plan,” Gambian said.

“We say that the government of New South Wales, the Minister for Water [Melinda Pavey] and the Minister of the Environment [Matt Kean] broke the law on water management when they drew up the water sharing plan for the border rivers. “

In a statement, a spokesperson for the office of NSW Minister of Water Melinda Pavey said the state government “is currently reviewing the issues raised by the NCC in connection with the proceedings but could not provide any specific comment as the matter is currently before the court.

Mr Gambian of the NSW Nature Conservation Council said he did not believe that climate change was properly factored into the water sharing calculations and that the results could have a huge impact on the environment.

“Killed fish are a good example.

“Luckily the Menindee Lakes have water, but 12 months ago that wasn’t the case… that’s another good example.”

Thousands of dead fish float on the surface of a river
The Darling River at Menindee has suffered several massive fish mortalities.(

Provided: Rob Greggory

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It’s a sentiment shared by Kallara Station breeder Justin McClure, who believes a lack of communication between the north and south of the state has also contributed to environmental crises such as the fish kills of Menindee. .

“At the moment, these water-sharing plans only speak to downstream plans when they are forced to,” McClure said.

He believes that better communication between all parties must be addressed, as must the issue of climate change.

“Connectivity is the key. If climate change is not taken into account and downstream communities are not taken into account, the process is interrupted,” he said.

A river flows under a wooden bridge, with grass in the foreground and clouds in a blue sky
The Darling River is currently in much better condition, flowing at Wilcannia. (

ABC Broken Hill: Bill Ormonde

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Mr. Gambian accepted.

Mr McClure says he hopes that, at the very least, the lawsuit will raise public awareness of the water problem, especially in towns across the state where people are not sufficiently informed on certain issues. affecting other parts of the state.

“Public awareness is the key to putting ourselves on the same ground and on the same level as other communities,” he said.

“We all have a say in this argument, we all have to live. All communities matter.”


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