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The Centre for Environmental Law & Community Rights (CELCOR) in Papua New Guinea, our partner through the EDO NSW International Program, has filed legal proceedings against the PNG Government to obtain key documents relating to the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project.Read more
8 December 2017
Coastal communities in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have launched legal proceedings against the PNG Government to obtain key documents relating to the licensing and environmental impacts of the Solwara 1 deep sea mining project.Read more
28 November 2017
Sea Shepherd Australia has today released rare whaling footage filmed on a 2008 Australian Customs mission to the Antarctic and obtained by EDO NSW under Commonwealth Freedom of Information laws.Read more
27 November 2017
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC), represented by public interest environmental lawyers Environmental Defenders Office NSW (EDO NSW), is bringing court action that challenges the validity of the Native Vegetation Code 2017, which enables private landholders to carry out large scale clearing of native vegetation without approval or environmental assessment.Read more
Fiji is an archipelagic state, with its ocean area being its most significant resource, making sustainable management a key law and policy issue.Read more
EDO NSW, on behalf of its client the Inland Rivers Network, has commenced civil enforcement proceedings in the NSW Land and Environment Court in relation to allegations of unlawful water pumping by a large-scale irrigator on the Barwon-Darling River.
This hearing will be held over ten days, commencing on 9 March 2020.
The two water access licences at the centre of these allegations allow the licence holder to pump water from the Barwon-Darling River in accordance with specified licence conditions, as well as rules set out in the relevant ‘water sharing plan’. The conditions and rules specify – amongst other things – how much water can be legally pumped in a water accounting year (which is the same as the financial year) and at what times pumping is permissible (which depends on the volume of water flowing in the river at any given time).
Our client alleges that the holder of these licences pumped water in contravention of some of these conditions and rules, thereby breaching relevant provisions of the Water Management Act 2000 (NSW) (WM Act). The allegations are based on licence data obtained by EDO NSW from Water NSW, a state-owned corporation charged with the responsibility of regulating compliance with the WM Act.
Analysis of this data, along with the relevant rules and publicly available information on river heights, indicates that the licence holder may have pumped significantly more water than was permissible on one licence during the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 water years, and taken a significant amount of water under another licence during a period of low flow when pumping was not permitted in the 2015-16 water year.
Both allegations concern the potentially unlawful pumping of significant volumes of water, which may have had serious impacts on environmental flows in the river and downstream water users. However, our client is particularly concerned by the alleged over-extraction in the 2014/15 water year, as this period was so dry that the Menindee Lakes – which are filled by flows from the Barwon-Darling River – fell to 4 percent of their total storage capacity. This in turn threatened Broken Hill’s water security and led the NSW Government to impose an embargo on water extractions during part of that year in order to improve flows down the Barwon-Darling into the Lakes and Lower Darling River.
In these proceedings, the Inland Rivers Network is seeking, amongst other things, an injunction preventing the licence holder from continuing to breach the relevant licence conditions. In addition, and in order to make good any depletion of environmental flows caused by the alleged unlawful pumping, our client is also asking the Court to require the licence holder to return to the river system an equivalent volume of water to that alleged to have been unlawfully taken, or to restrain the licence holder from pumping such a volume from the river system, during the next period of low flows in the river system. Failure to comply with a court order constitutes contempt of court, which is a criminal offence.
EDO NSW is grateful to barristers Tom Howard SC and Natasha Hammond for their assistance in this matter.
Matt Floro, Solicitor at EDO NSW, has carriage of this matter for IRN.
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- Legal update: Less water, less transparency (July 2018)
- Legal update: Using the law to protect the Murray-Darling Basin (November 2017)
- Four Corners investigation highlights our work to protect the Murray-Darling Basin (July 2017)
- Is carp herpes really a substitute for water in the Murray-Darling? (February 2017)
- EDO NSW case: Australian Conservation Foundation vs WaterNSW
- Fact sheet: Water Management
- EDOs of Australia submission to the Inquiry into the Integrity of the Water Market in the Murray-Darling Basin
- EDOs of Australia submission to the Inquiry into National water Reform
- Link to this case summary.
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