Basin Plan At Risk Without Change

  • Minister for Water

The independent report commissioned by the Victorian and New South Wales Governments has found a key element of the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) has “a high chance of failure” if changes are not made.

The Murray-Darling Basin constraints modelling was reviewed by an independent panel in light of community concerns about the unacknowledged impacts of proposed higher flows on land, businesses and local infrastructure.

The Panel convened a series of workshops to consult with modelling, operational and environmental experts from Victorian and NSW state departments and agencies and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

The report concluded that the existing modelling undertaken for the Constraints Measures Program was insufficient and did not:

  • explain to communities how increased flows will impact property and businesses
  • demonstrate the likely benefits for the environment for the extensive expenditure of public money
  • give river operators confidence that they will not inadvertently flood someone without their consent.

As the Productivity Commission has already flagged, the report found there is little prospect of securing agreements with landholders to complete the constraints projects by 2024, as currently required by the Basin Plan.

At the Ministerial Council in Brisbane tomorrow Ministers Neville and Pavey will be pushing for major changes to the constraints projects – including a more realistic timeframe, greater community engagement and a clear demonstration of the environmental benefits that will be achieved.

As noted by Victorian Minister for Water Lisa Neville

“What we’re talking about here is creating a man-made flood to achieve environmental benefits – yet we’ve found that under the current modelling, neither the community or the environment will get a good outcome.”

“We need to go back and make sure the modelling is real life and can accurately explain the impact this will have on properties and homes – and demonstrate what environmental outcomes will actually be achieved.”

“These things take time to get right which is why we need to discuss a new timeframe for the Constraints Measures Program and agree on a pathway forward for delivery beyond 2024.”

As noted by NSW Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey

“NSW is gripped by the worst drought on record. We have already done the heavy lifting for the Basin Plan and our communities are suffering as a result.”

“At the time the MDBP was conceived it used the best available science, this does not mean it’s the best science – localism and adaptive management was to be hardwired into its DNA, and we’re not seeing that.”

“This report shows there needs to be a re-think of how the plan works, or it will fail. We need artificial timeframes to be removed and projects that deliver real world outcomes for our communities.”

/Public Release. View in full here.