The state must lodge 20 plans, which set rules about how much water can be taken from the river for irrigation and for other uses, for adjudication by the Murray Darling Basin Authority.
“It is not my intention to approve Commonwealth expenditure to New South Wales related to the Basin plan until there is demonstrated progress on water resource plans,” Mr Littleproud wrote.
The Herald reported this included $48 million in funding for new metering, floodplain harvesting and construction of fishways to prevent further mass fish kills – and potentially up to $1.05 billion for other projects including the buy-back of high-security water licences owned by farmers.
“If New South Wales fails to give a proposed WRP to the Authority by 30 April 2020 for one or more of the 20 WRP areas, then I may issue a formal notice [for the Commonwealth to step in and complete the water resource plans],” the letter reads.
Mr Barilaro told the Herald he was “surprised” by Mr Littleproud’s intervention.
“It’s actually different to a private conversation I had with David Littleproud in relation to what we are fighting for … that there was a need for a change in the plans, that NSW had given up a lot and we needed some flexibility,” Mr Barilaro said.
Mr Barilaro said the state was working with the Commonwealth government and that Mr Littleproud had indicated the matter would be revisited in March.
The state’s Department of Planning, Industry and Environment will continue community consultation across the Murray Darling Basin before lodging water resource plans with the Murray Darling Basin Authority.
The severe drought had delayed work on the water resource plans and community consultation was “integral to their success”, Ms Pavey had said on Sunday.
“If the [federal government] think they can force plans onto these communities, good luck to them,” Mr Barilaro said on Monday.
“I’ll be sitting in the front row in community meetings with the communities fighting against it.”
Kylar Loussikian is The Sydney Morning Herald’s CBD columnist.