Basin Plan takes next step

Basin Plan takes next step

5.06.2012 - Posted by Kane Travis

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has produced a second draft of the Basin Plan and it now enters its ministerial and parliamentary process. The Plan goes to all Basin water ministers for consideration for a maximum of six weeks, as stipulated by the Water Act. Following this, the Basin Plan will be given to the Federal Water Minister.

There has been a strong response in the media that its central recommendation - diverting 2750 gigalitres of water from agricultural use to the environment - has not changed, and therefore the general perception is that the Plan has not changed (note that the groundwater extraction level is likely to be revised downwards on expert scientific advice). South Australia, Victoria and NSW indicated in submissions to the MDBA that they did not support the proposed 2750 GL sustainable diversion limit and once it reaches parliament, either the Greens or the opposition, who have repeatedly expressed concerns about the plan, could move to disallow it. The debate on the science is largely over and it is now a political process and subject to back room discussions and deals that I am sure is part of its path.

What I did want to comment on was the perception that the Plan has not changed. It has changed quite a lot. We have been working with the MDBA in supporting the Monitoring and Evaluation framework (Chapter 12 for those of you who have read it). As part of this we have been involved in understanding the changes in the other chapters and we think it is a substantially better document. It provides much greater clarity on processes and describes the outcomes and paths to the outcomes much better. I believe the current Plan is a much better document as a result of the consultation.

The community is still very polarised by the 2750 GL number and the science behind it, but the reality is it is an extraordinarily complex system and there is, and always will be a number of assumptions that have to be made. If we wait until we are 100% certain on all the science, it will be too late to recover the health of the basin. We have a number to work with to get going and we can have the ongoing debate and adapt as we continue to learn more about the basin ecology.

You can download the latest MDBA plan with track changes showing exactly which bits have changed.

Barmah Lake November 2010