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Independent Expert Panel To Investigate Basin River Flows

25 September 2019

The Victorian and New South Wales governments are reviewing the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) modelling that underpins higher environmental flow delivery in the southern-connected Basin.

Victorian Minister for Water Lisa Neville and NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey today appointed an independent expert panel to undertake the review, agreed to at the Ministerial Council meeting in August.

Panel members Greg Wilson (Chairperson), George Warne and Campbell Fitzpatrick each have extensive experience in the water industry.

Greg Wilson was the former Secretary of the Department of Sustainability and Environment in charge of water reform in Victoria. George Warne is experienced in water reform, river restoration and is a former board member of the Murray Darling Basin Authority. Campbell Fitzpatrick has worked in the water industry for over 30 years.

The review follows community concerns about the impacts of proposed higher flows on land, businesses and local infrastructure. There is also a lack of clarity about the environmental benefits of these overbank flows and understanding of how authorities will manage operational risks of delivering flows to the targeted rates.

The panel will assess whether the MDBA’s existing modelling is sound enough to give communities confidence that higher flows can be delivered in real time, to properly assess and manage risks to landholders, and ensure the environmental outcomes are clear.

The Victorian and NSW Governments will not inundate private land without landholders’ consent nor compulsorily acquire land or easements as part of possible adjusting physical and operational limits to higher environmental flows.

The panel will report its findings and any recommendations to Ministers in December.

Quotes attributable to Victorian Minister for Water Lisa Neville

“We know there is concern in the Basin communities that higher flows will have negative impacts on their land – that’s why we’re ensuring any future decisions are informed by science and best practice.”

“These experienced panel members will inform our understanding of whether removing limits to achieve higher river flows is practical, can be realistically delivered and will benefit the environment.”

Quotes attributable to NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey

“When the MDBP was first created, localism and adaptive management was hard-wired into the plans DNA.”

“NSW has already done the heavy lifting and our communities are suffering as a result. South Australian lower lakes are full while NSW communities are dry.”

“This review will help us understand whether the flows are achievable during extreme conditions.”

Additional information

Greg Wilson has extensive experience within Victorian government departments. He was appointed as Chair of the Transport Accident Commission in March 2019 and is currently with the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Greg was previously the Secretary of the Department of Justice and Regulation, Secretary of the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), and Deputy Secretary Policy and Cabinet Group, Department of Premier and Cabinet.

George Warne is recognised as a leader in the rural water sector and has over 27 years of experience in the public and private water sector across a broad range of roles and organisations in both Victoria and New South Wales.

Campbell Fitzpatrick has worked in the water industry for over 30 years and in senior executive positions in the Victorian government for close to 20 years. Campbell led the delivery of Victoria’s Sharing the Murray program which involved working closely with regional communities to establish secure well-defined Victorian water rights on the Murray River.

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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