After more than 100 years of argument and conflict between the states, we now have a single, national plan for managing water in the Murray-Darling Basin. Yesterday Federal Water Minister Tony Burke signed the Basin Plan into law stating “It's a century too late, but better late than never".
Two years after releasing the draft Murray Darling Basin Plan, the final Plan will see up to 3,200 gigalitres of water returned to the river system. From 2019 it'll see 2,750 gigalitres of water returned to the Murray Darling system and that could increase to the full 3,200 with the Government hoping for another 450 gigalitres to be saved via water infrastructure improvements.
There are mixed reactions and not everyone is happy with the outcome. The Greens say it's not enough and will try and disallow the bill. But with the Opposition on board, largely there is little they can do.
Along with the Greens, Head of the New South Wales Irrigators Council, Andrew Gregson was not happy, but for the opposite reason “When all is said and done, in a number of years' time Australia will look back on this as a decision that was a bad decision in terms of our resource management and it will eventually be reinvestigated".
Jock Laurie the head of the Australian Farmers Federation was on the fence with “It is very difficult to sit down and say whether this plan is going to be balanced long-term or whether it's going to generate that longevity, that economic longevity. And working with those communities to maintain that economic base is what is going to actually allow those communities to be able to work in this environment”.
I think Tony Burke summed it all up pretty well “no jurisdiction will be 100 per cent happy, but the final plan has something that everybody can work with. If states refuse to co-operate, federal powers kick in and override them, but I genuinely don't believe it will come to that. I think I do believe we've got something that all jurisdictions will be able to work with."
Alluvium has played a key role in the Basin Plan, our work on ecosystem functions contributed to the Plan’s Sustainable Diversion Limits’s and being involved in the Monitoring and Evaluation framework for over two years gave us an opportunity to have a major influence on how the Plan measures success.
There will be ongoing debates about the numbers, however importantly, we now have a plan for the Basin and that plan has been established in Law. The challenge will be to deliver on that plan, with respect for diverse opinions and with a spirit of cooperation.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, annoucing the Basin Plan at the National Press Club this week