Issues around deliverability of water in the Murray Darling Basin will be peer-reviewed by an independent expert panel after a Victorian government proposal was agreed to at the Ministerial Council in Canberra yesterday.
The agreement is a significant win for water users across the Basin, who need assurances that the work being undertaken by the Murray Darling Basin Authority is underpinned by strong data and accurate assumptions.
Victoria proposed an independent panel to peer-review the Murray River Capacity Risks Project to learn from this season’s deliverability shortfalls and better understand risks to future water delivery. This will ensure both the environment and the rights of existing entitlement holders are protected.
Members of the panel and the terms of reference will be agreed to by the Commonwealth and all Basin states – with a report due back at the next Ministerial Council.
To complement the review, Victoria and New South Wales also agreed to further investigate the modelling of constraints projects to restore community confidence in this aspect of the Basin Plan.
While Ministers Neville and Pavey raised these concerns at the Ministerial Council, agreement could not be reached, leaving Victoria and New South Wales to go it alone and jointly undertake this vital work.
The Ministerial Council had a united front on the critical importance of the agreed socio-economic criteria underpinning further water recovery – reiterating that there would be no further buy-backs unless it can be proven this would not negatively impact Basin communities.
Victoria is on track to deliver our targets under the Basin Plan without further buy backs – which would force already high water prices up further and take vital water needed for farms out of our regions.
Other commitments secured by Minister Neville on key issues included an agreed collaborative response to the Productivity Commission report and agreements on greater community involvement in decisions made by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to provide increased transparency.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Water Lisa Neville
“I’ve seen first hand the impact high trade and high water flows this year had on the Goulburn – which is why we need to get the balance right when it comes to protecting both the environment and existing water users.
“Victoria has already taken action to limit extraction but there is more to be done across the system, which is why I proposed this peer-review panel today to accelerate this critical work.
“Our priority has always been to stand up for Victorian irrigators and through the agreement reached today – both on a review of deliverability issues and assurances of no further buy-backs – our Basin communities can have more confidence that the Plan is on track and doing what it was designed to do.