In light of public concern about the Yanco-Colombo Creek proposed regulator, the NSW Government have implemented some changes to the handling of this particular SDL project.
The NSW Government announced yesterday the appointment of Mr David Leslie to the position of Principal Project Officer Lands & Water Division with responsibility for the Murrumbidgee Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) program.
Mr Leslie’s first undertaking in his new role will be a significant community consultation on the Murrumbidgee Program, including the proposed project to improve flow management in the Yanco Creek system, beginning later this month.
“I feel honoured to be given such a significant role, and one that goes to the heart of what I believe in; securing the future of our most remote communities through smart water infrastructure,” Mr Leslie said.
“I am looking forward to consulting closely with the community to secure positive outcomes for the environment and the community.”
“It is important to note that works at Yanco Creek are currently under consideration only. It is absolutely not a done deal. We should, and will, engage heavily with locals on this and other projects throughout the design and implementation processes,” he said.
According to Bob Crawford, President of the Yanco Creek and Tributaries Advisory Council (YACTAC), the original business case into the regulator will be revisited.
“They have changed the process of writing the business case, which was originally written in 2015,” Mr Crawford explained.
The general consensus coming from YACTAC would appear to be acceptance of the regulator itself, but the desire to keep the continuous flows that have been integral to the Yanco-Colombo Creek system for 150 years.
The initial business case for the regulator, when combined with the business case Modernising Supply Systems for Effluent Creeks in the Murrumbidgee River, led to community fears that the flows to the Yanco Creek system could be cut off altogether.
“We hope that we will be able to inform them. The very first business case was a bit graceless. I’d say it will be built with a rule towards how much water can go down, because that part of the creek is used to a continuous flow. The people on the creek don’t want irrigation water; they want the continuous flow,” Mr Crawford said.
Because of the extended continuous flows into the creek system, the Yanco-Colombo Creek and surrounding wetlands are now home to a number of native species, including platypus, the Southern Bell Frog, various fish species and wetland birds.
The Southern Bell Frog is classified as a vulnerable species.
The SDL projects were originally intended to be a more efficient and industry friendly way to put more water back into the Murray-Darling River.
The initial process was water buy-backs, which turned out to be incredibly detrimental to irrigation communities.
SDL projects, on the other hand, were about finding ways to use water more efficiently in order for environmental flows to occur without overt damage to industry. Some SDLs have included upgrading infrastructure, for example.
However, tensions have run high in the community, and there has been anger and pushback over some projects.
“There are a lot of people who just want to insult them. But we need to inform them, help them,” Mr Crawford said.
Consultations on the Yanco Creek regulator are expected to begin in early December.