Review of the POEO (Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme) Regulation 2002

Outcomes of the review

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has completed the ten-year statutory review of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme) Regulation 2002 (the Regulation). The Protection of the Environment Operations (Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme) Amendment Regulation 2016 (the Amendment Regulation) (PDF 244KB) implements the recommendations of the review.

The Amendment Regulation was published on 16 December 2016 and commenced on 16 March 2017.

The primary change contained in the Amendment Regulation is an increase to the flood flow thresholds under clause 11

  • from >4,000 to >6,500 ML/day in the upper sector (megalitres per day)
  • from >6,000 to >16,500 ML/day in the middle sector
  • from >10,000 to >28,500 ML/day in the lower sector

These questions and answers (PDF 577KB) explain why changes have been made to the flood flow thresholds, and provides background to the issue.

The remaining amendments proposed in the Amendment Regulation are of a minor nature (i.e. mechanical, administrative and tidy-up amendments), to improve clarity and consistency, and to remove repetition and redundant clauses.

The Summary of the Amendment document (PDF 192KB) explains how all the required changes to the Regulation arising from the review were achieved in the Amendment Regulation specifically.

Next steps

The EPA will continue to consider and prioritise other recommended non-regulatory operational improvements to the scheme arising from the review, in consultation with the Scheme Operations Committee.

The EPA will revisit the issue of flood flows under the Scheme in the second half of 2018, following the next credit auction and a review of the credit trading platform.

Background and overview of the Regulation review process

Between 2013 and 2016, the EPA undertook a 10-year statutory review of the Regulation.

The purpose of the review was to

  • undertake the statutory 10-year review of the Regulation
  • improve the Regulation to make it a more effective and efficient tool for managing discharges of saline water into the Hunter River Catchment under the Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme (the Scheme)

Summary of the review process

Hunter Catchment Salinity Assessment

In 2013, the EPA commissioned the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to undertake a Hunter Catchment Salinity Assessment to inform the Regulation review. This involved a desk-top review and gap-analysis of available water quality data (primarily salinity/conductivity) and aquatic ecological health data in the Hunter River Catchment upstream of Singleton, to assist in the evaluation of the effectiveness of the Scheme.

The results of the Assessment have influenced many of the issues that are raised in the discussion paper.

An overview of the key findings of the Assessment is provided in Appendix B of the discussion paper.

The Salinity Assessment was released publically in late 2013, as a supporting document to the discussion paper.

Discussion paper

During late 2013 and early 2014, the EPA sought public submissions on a discussion paper (PDF 542KB) for the review of the Regulation. A public information session was also held in December 2013. The submission period for the discussion paper has closed.

The discussion paper

  • explains why the EPA is reviewing the Regulation
  • provides a scope and framework for the review
  • provides focus questions and outlines key issues with the Regulation and the Scheme that have been identified and how they could be addressed

Stakeholder submissions on the discussion paper

In early 2014, the EPA received 27 submissions on the discussion paper from a range of stakeholders. Overall, the vast majority of stakeholders showed support for the scheme, recognising its significance in improving the management of saline discharges in the Hunter River catchment.

Responses from community and environment groups generally expressed the importance of not compromising or watering-down the scheme through the review of the Regulation, especially given the rapid expansion of coal mining across the catchment.

Industry submissions expressed a view that the scheme is an effective means of meeting salinity objectives in the Hunter River whilst still allowing industry to discharge saline water.

A summary of the issues raised in submissions is also provided in Appendix A of the EPA's report on the review.

Submissions received on the discussion paper for the review of the Amendment Regulation are available below.

Report on the review

Following the Regulation review, the EPA prepared the report: Review of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme) Regulation 2002: Report and Recommendations (PDF 1.2MB). The report was informed by submissions received during consultation on the discussion paper for the review. The report:

  • gives an overview of the review process (including consultation)
  • discusses the results of consultation and the EPA's position on the issues raised
  • makes a number of detailed recommendations and suggestions:
    1. to improve the Regulation (including to raise the current flood flow thresholds and a range of other more minor amendments)
    2. for potential improvements the general operation of the scheme
    3. for potential further investigations to support the scheme in the medium to long term.

The report was released on 18 January 2016 at the same time as a draft Amendment Regulation (below) was released for public comment.

Draft Amendment Regulation

draft Protection of the Environment Operations (Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme) Amendment Regulation 2016 (PDF 245KB) (the draft Amendment Regulation) was on public exhibition publically exhibited during early 2016 to seek stakeholder feedback on proposed changes to the Regulation arising from its review.

Stakeholder submissions on the draft Amendment Regulation

In early 2016, the EPA received 14 submissions on the draft Amendment Regulation from a range of stakeholders.

summary of submissions with EPA response (PDF 466KB) has been prepared and individual submissions can be found below.

Submissions received on the draft Amendment Regulation (PDF 245KB) are available below.

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