Environmental groups have called on the public to demand change to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan after adverse findings against the Department of Primary Industries following a slate of ICAC recommendations.
Recommendations detailed by ICAC following two linked investigations detailed 15 changes they stated should be made in order to correct the department's shortcomings with regards to water management.
In addition, the ICAC determined that the governmental body responsible for water and environmental management had demonstrated a 'repeated tendency to adopt an approach that was unduly focused on the interests of the irrigation industry'.
Figures like Mel Gray, convenor of Healthy Rivers Dubbo, say this points to 'unfair' treatment, where the environment and the region's waterways have routinely come second to the interests of irrigators.
"Somewhere around 90,000 megalitres of water has been diverted away from the river by floodplain harvesting earlier this year," Ms Gray said.
"That's upstream of the Macquarie marshes and it's left the marshes in an unnecessarily perilous situation, the public would have seen much better bang for their buck from the publicly owned water if so much hadn't been diverted away from the wetlands to be kept in private dams for profit."
While two investigations by ICAC found no evidence of corrupt behaviour by NSW DPI officials and administrators, Ms Gray says the findings and recommendations clearly show that changes are needed.
"The findings from ICAC indicate there seems to be a culture within the department that sees the return of water to the environment as a threat to itself," Ms Gray said.
"There's been a reported bias towards making rules that support irrigation at the expense of the environment."
"The environment isn't being taken seriously, it's obvious that continues to be the case."
Ms Gray said the concentrated focus on irrigator's interest had created an untenable situation within the river ecosystem.
"The true impact of harvesting hasn't been properly assessed, but we know it's substantial, we can see that the river system is less resilient already," Ms Gray said.
A representative for Water Minister Melinda Pavey said the NSW Government welcomed the findings and would respond to the recommendations in time.
"The NSW Government will respond formally to the Commission's recommendations in due course and has already introduced improved processes, including the independent regulator and introducing compulsory water metering."
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