Regulating floodplain harvesting will help mitigate the damage from more frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, according to a farmer from recently-flooded Bathurst.
His remarks came as the NSW Upper House Select Committee heard evidence last week that without proper regulation floodplain harvesting could be detrimental to the environment.
Hudson White, who has a property at The Lagoon 20km outside Bathurst, said he believes the practice is key to adapting to the extreme weather in Australia.
“Floodplain harvesting will ensure that there will be a source of water during a drought, as well as something to reduce the impacts of the flood on our property and livestock,” he told Central News.
“The drought takes its toll on all us farmers and it is good to see we are finally getting a substantial amount of rain that will actually make a difference.”
His comments came weeks after serious flooding around the Central Tablelands town closed roads and inundated farmland, but were seen by farmers as a good omen for a rainy spring.
The process of floodplain harvesting involves trapping water from the plains during a flood by using levy banks then diverting it or pumping it into a farm’s dam to water cattle or crops.
Melinda Pavey, Minister for Water, Property and Housing, believes floodplain harvesting is beneficial when regulated and slammed the NSW Legislative Council for blocking ‘clear, unambiguous’ restrictions.
“Since the NSW Legislative Council disallowed these regulations, which would have minimised environmental impact, more water was taken than what would have been allowed if the practice was regulated, and the wetlands missed out as a result,” she told the Senate Select Committee.
Pavey added floodplain harvesting should continue but urged government parties to realise with a correct framework and legislation it would be a lot safer and beneficial for the environment.
“The evidence highlights two certainties – floodplain harvesting is legal and because of the disallowance there is now water in private storages that could have flowed down to critical local ecosystems,” she said.
Farmers and the government alike are urging for the adoption of clear rules in the face of more frequent and longer occurrences of drought.
The 4.96m flooding of the Macquarie River, which runs through the middle of Bathurst, is just the beginning of what local farmers are calling a “dream come true”, with the likelihood they will have enough rain this season to grow their crops.
“[It was] something to make a lot of the community smile, especially in such a strange time with lockdown and restrictions,” Mr White added.
While significant rainfall has optimal benefits after coming out of a drought, trends over the past century have resulted in one extreme or another. With the recent and predicted rainfall, threats of further floods are imminent.
The Bathurst SES declared the August flood ‘minor’ but continues to monitor the river system.
Main flood image by Ainsley Woods.