17/04/2020

Photo courtesy ABC

Ricegrowers Association of Australia – response

The report is out.

The Interim Inspector-General of the Murray-Darling Basin, Mick Keelty, released his report on the water management in the Murray Darling Basin Agreement.

We were pleased to see recommendations consistent with RGA’s priorities forgreater transparency and efficiency in river operations, and recognising chronic underuse of allocations.

But the report fell far short of acknowledging that any reform on the scale started by the 2004 National Water Initiative will have inevitably unintended and perverse outcomes, and these must be addressed.

This includes policy changes whose cumulative effect has eroded General Security reliability over and above the impact of the drying climate. It is disappointing that Mr Keelty has chosen instead to let Basin Governments off the hook by presenting low inflows as the only cause.

The RGA has already been working closely with the MDBA for several weeks to unpick the non-climatic drivers behind lower allocations and underuse. The MDBA itself has acknowledged that policy changes are affecting the NSW allocations framework.

Overall, the report concludes better communication and transparency is all that’s needed. This falls short of expectations that material issues raised in submissions would be properly dealt with.

‘The impact of lower inflows on state shares under the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement’ report is what it is. It can now be added to more than 40 reports evaluating Basin water management and the Basin Plan. Now it is time for Governments to act. We expect Basin Governments will go beyond the report’s generally weak recommendations, and properly investigate the policy issues.

For further information, read the report here, the NFF response highlighting the policy gap here, and the RGA’s submission here.

Report recommendations

1.     The MDBA should undertake further analysis of the causes of reduced inflows from the northern Basin and the extent to which this is affecting State water shares

2.     To increase trust in and transparency about water-sharing, the MDBA should provide clear and easily accessible information about Special Accounting measures, including the circumstances under which they are applied and how they are used to determine State allocations.

3.     The MDBA should clearly communicate the results of its examination of underuse of allocations and compare them with the submissions made to this Inquiry so that accurate feedback can be provided to the community. 

4.     The Basin Officials Committee (BOC) should consider implementing a single authoritative platform that combines information currently available on the various Commonwealth and state websites, to provide higher levels of transparency and trust and to improve water literacy.

5.     The BOC should consider ways through which States and agencies could work together across their respective jurisdictions to include water literacy in high school and higher education curriculums, including VET, in regional areas.