Aboriginal peoples in NSW and the network of Aboriginal Land Councils have key roles to play in the management of water in NSW. Aboriginal peoples are not merely one stakeholder among others, but possess inherent and pre-eminent rights, values and interests in the lands and waters on account of their status as Australia’s First Peoples. As such, Aboriginal peoples and communities should be engaged in meaningful consultation and regarded in NSW policies and plans relating to water.
NSWALC, LALCs and Aboriginal people have long called for improved water management practices, involvement of Aboriginal people in water governance and decision-making, increased access to and ownership of water for Aboriginal people for cultural and economic purposes, and improved accountability, transparency and compliance.
Whilst NSWALC broadly supports the licensing and metering of floodplain harvesting, there is a range of other impacts, options and mechanisms that must be further explored. Furthermore, any scheme proposing to maintain or increase rainwater harvesting needs to:
• Enshrine increased transparency, accountability, and compliance measures,
• Be clear in what it is trying to achieve,
• Include strong safeguards and targets to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage, Aboriginal fishers, water quality, town water supplies, the environment and downstream users/ impacts.