The Andrews Labor Government has secured a win for Victorian communities, with Basin States agreeing that an independent person be appointed to examine the multiple inquiries and reviews into the allegations of water theft in the Murray Darling Basin.
The agreement was secured at the Ministerial Council Meeting in Albury today – the first meeting of Basin Ministers since allegations of water theft were revealed by Four Corners in July.
An independent person will assess and review all the investigations currently being undertaken about the Murray Darling Basin to ensure they address the serious allegations made about water theft and determine if further compliance and enforcement measures are required.
In June, all Basin Ministers agreed to sign up to the MDBA’s 605GL adjustment package of projects, which are helping Victoria reach the 2,750GL target without further Commonwealth water buybacks.
Victoria made it clear during the meeting that delivering any further on-farm efficiencies to achieve the extra 450GL being requested by South Australia would severely impact the economic and social viability of communities along the Basin.
Victoria is not willing to put Basin communities at risk, but offered to pursue opportunities for off-farm water savings that contribute to the 450GL – a proposal rejected by South Australia.
South Australia is threatening the delivery of the environmental offset projects critical to achieving the 2,750GL, which could potentially result in further water buybacks or a 2,100GL plan.
Victoria will continue to push for the triple bottom line outcomes envisaged by the Plan -- balancing the social, economic and environmental needs of the Basin.
The states also agreed to strengthen the involvement of Aboriginal people in water resource management, including in the Murray Darling Basin Authority, which is already being championed by the Labor Government through Water for Victoria.
Basin States today agreed that community trust in the plan is needed, with New South Wales and Queensland detailing how they are tackling compliance issues and enforcement regimes in their own states.
Victorian communities have already done the heavy lifting – achieving a 30 per cent reduction in consumptive water. An early meeting will be called in April for further discussions between the states.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Water Lisa Neville
“It’s disappointing that South Australia is now seeking to block the 605GL of offset projects – this is bad for communities, the environment and could see further water buybacks by the Commonwealth.”
“Our own assessments and reports show that the delivery of the extra 450GL cannot be achieved without negative impact on communities who are already at tipping point.”
“While we ultimately want an independent national inquiry, this independent person will allow us to know the facts, investigate serious issues and get on with delivering what is critical for regional communities.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020