NSW Government commits to consider climate change in water rules, ending long-standing legal dispute

Nature Conservation Council

March 14, 2024

The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, has today settled their court case against the NSW Minister for Water Rose Jackson and Minister for Climate Change and Environment Penny Sharpe.

Just days before the matter was due to be heard before the NSW Land and Environment Court, the current ministers have committed to considering the future impacts of climate change on water flows, including extraction limits and allocations. Importantly, the Ministers have committed to obtaining independent reviews of this work.

“This is a big win for the rivers and people of NSW. As the extremes of climate change loom large, water-sharing arrangements will have to align with the reality on the ground,” said Nature Conservation Council NSW water campaigner, Mel Gray.

“With more severe droughts and extreme flooding expected, on top of an already sick Murray-Darling Basin, this win signifies a turning point for the rivers and wetlands of NSW.”

NCC brought the world first case against the previous NSW Water and Environment Ministers in 2021, alleging that then Ministers Melinda Pavey &

Matt Kean breached the law by failing to take future climate change impacts into consideration when making water sharing arrangements in the Border Rivers.

NCC has been represented by the Environmental Defenders Office.

Statements attributable to NCC Water Campaigner Mel Gray:

“With this agreement the NSW Government has made a strong commitment to improve the way rivers are managed, and NCC will work with the ministers to ensure it is delivered. The health of the rivers depends on it.

“This case was the first time a catchment-wide water sharing instrument has been challenged on the grounds that it fails to address the future impacts of climate change.

“Making decisions about water without taking future climate change into account has been a recipe for disaster. It is game-changing that the Ministers for Climate Change and Environment and Water have accepted the importance of considering climate change projections in future water extraction limits.

“NCC looks forward to working with the NSW Government to ensure there is more water for fragile ecosystems across the Murray-Darling Basin, healthier river systems and greater water security for all inland communities.”

Statement ends

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