Peter Harris served with Summons over water use in Barwon-Darling River

Legal proceeding have commenced in the Land and Environment Court of NSW against local cotton farmer Peter Harris.

A community group, Inland Rivers Network, has taken legal action to “force” Mr Harris to return more than five billion litres of water, the group is claiming he illegally took, from the Barwon-Darling River.

The local irrigator has since spoken out, confirming he and his legal team were preparing to vigorously defend the “baseless allegations”. “We maintain we have at all times, fully complied with our obligations under our Water Access Licences and have nothing to hide.

“We look forward to an opportunity to vigorously defend these baseless allegations in a legitimately constituted forum where the rule of law applies.”   

The Inland Rivers Network (IRN) has vowed to investigate, and hold responsible, those involved in the misuse of water in New South Wales.

“The environment and downstream communities depend on river flows and a healthier river system, and we will fight to ensure that their interests are protected,” Nature Conservation Council chief executive Kate Smolski said. 

Spokesperson for the IRN Melissa Gray told Fairfax Media that legal action had been taken to ensure water licences and entitlements on the Darling were being used accordingly.

“Already we have seen consequences of these rules being broken, for instance the Macquarie Marshes

“The connectivity of the Macquarie to the Barwon, and of the Darling to the Murray, and all other rivers in the Northern Basin are highly compromised when rouge irrigators breach their licences.

“To go further, on the Barwon Darling the water sharing plans are bias towards irrigators in the first place.

“Tax-payer funded environmental water can legally be extracted and, even with the bias laws, we still have examples of some rouge players breaching their licence conditions and illegally extracting massive amounts of water which drastically effects the connectivity of the rivers,” she said.