Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Mark Butler MP

Minister for Climate Change
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Water

The Hon Katrina Hodgkinson MP

NSW Minister for Primary Industries

Nimmie-Caira Project Approved

Joint Media release
4 July 2013

An agreement has been reached on a significant water saving project in the Nimmie-Caira area of the Lower Murrumbidgee floodplain, Federal Minister for the Environment Mark Butler and NSW Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson announced today.

The Australian Government has agreed to provide $180 million to NSW to purchase the land and water entitlements from 11 property owners in the Nimmie-Caira area, and for NSW to undertake extensive infrastructure works and develop long term land management arrangements.

Minister for Environment Mark Butler said, under the Agreement, water entitlements currently used for flood irrigation will be transferred to the Commonwealth for environmental use, making a significant contribution towards 'bridging the gap' to the sustainable diversion limits under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

"The project will provide 381,000 megalitres of Murrumbidgee supplementary (Lowbidgee) water entitlements that will benefit wetlands and floodways of the Lowbidgee floodplain and beyond, delivering a long-term average of 173,000 megalitres of water to the environment each year," Mr Butler said.

"It will reduce the need for the purchase of water entitlements from other areas in the Murrumbidgee Valley that includes extensive permanent plantings and irrigation infrastructure."

Mr Butler said the investment in the Nimmie-Caira area will provide lasting benefits to what is the largest remaining area of wetland in the Lower Murrumbidgee floodplain.

"The Nimmie-Caira project provides an opportunity to protect and restore the extensive wetland and floodway ecosystems of the Lower Murrumbidgee floodplain that are of local, national and potentially international importance."

NSW Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson said the Nimmie-Caira project is not only a major environmental project.

It involves infrastructure works, reconfiguration of an extensive water delivery system and protection of important environmental assets for the long term, as well as funding for Indigenous and local community project components in the Hay, Balranald and Wakool council areas.

The project would also deliver social and economic outcomes for communities in the Murrumbidgee.

It includes development of a stock and domestic water supply to support dryland farming, and projects to assist local government and communities including funding of $530,000 for a community development co-ordinator in the Hay Shire and $100,000 for a Nimmie-Caira module in the Balranald Community Interpretive Centre.

The project forms part of the Australian Government's commitment to provide up to $708 million, subject to due diligence, to the NSW Government to implement a suite of programs as part of the NSW State Priority Projects.

Facts about the Nimmie-Caira project.

  • The Nimmie-Caira area consists of 84,417 hectares and is located in the lower reaches of the Murrumbidgee River floodplain in NSW, east of the township of Balranald.
  • The business case presented by NSW identifies around 32,000 hectares of water dependent vegetation in the Nimmie-Caira, including red gum and black box communities and sensitive lignum wetlands. The business case also points to potential to restore cleared land and floodways to reconnect and reintegrate areas of water dependent vegetation.
  • The average long term yield from the Nimmie-Caira water entitlement is 173,000 megalitres. Of this, it is estimated that some 40,400 megalitres on average has already been benefitting the environmental assets of the Nimmie-Caira.
  • Trade of supplementary water entitlements is limited and unused entitlements cannot be carried-over into future years in the Murrumbidgee valley. They are accessible only when flows exceed downstream regulated requirements and only in specified reaches of the river where those flows are occurring. In NSW, diversions of water accounted against a supplementary entitlement is allowed during times where natural inflows may result in dams overflowing or there are high tributary inflows into regulated rivers downstream of major dams.
  • The Nimmie-Caira project will be implemented by the NSW Office of Water, in consultation with the Commonwealth, and with local landowners and stakeholders including Balranald, Hay and Wakool Shire Councils.
  • The next step is to finalise a formal project schedule setting out the milestones and conditions against which project funding will be provided.
  • The NSW government will own the land until long term land management arrangements are agreed that will protect and maintain the environmental and indigenous cultural assets of the Nimmie-Caira and integrate where possible with long term objectives for environmental watering in Yanga National Park.