Committee says complex water policy no excuse for federal takeover

Sep 30, 2021 | Media Releases 2021

National Senator for NSW, Perin Davey has welcomed the finding of a Senate Select Committee that
there is no justification for a Commonwealth takeover of water regulation, despite the complexity of
managing the Murray-Darling Basin across four states and one territory.

“While water is complex and legislatively it feels like it has more layers than an onion, a Federal
takeover is not the answer to the water woes in regional communities,” Senator Davey said.

“Instead of more efforts at reform, we need to go back to what the intent of the most recent rounds
of reform have been trying to achieve – to get better environmental and economic outcomes from a
scarce resource.

“That is why The Nationals have lodged a range of additional recommendations to the Committee
report to refocus all jurisdictions on getting environmental outcomes, rather than numeric
entitlements that are based on modelling and estimates.”

Senator Davey was a member of the Senate Select Committee on the Multi-Jurisdictional
Management and Execution of the Murray Darling Basin Plan which was also tasked with reviewing a
private members Bill, which sought changes to The Constitution make water a Commonwealth

“We heard a lot of skepticism about a Federal takeover and what it would mean on-the-ground,” she

“We heard from stakeholders who are frustrated by multiple inquiries with little perceived action.

“We heard that on the one hand, water buyback is ‘cheap’ but on the other hand, the economic
impact in communities is dire.

“We heard about the challenge of delivering the current volume of held environmental water and the
incapacity of the system to deliver any more.

“Importantly, what we heard in the regions, from the people who live in The Basin, is that there are
better ways to improve environmental and ecological resilience that are not dependent on stripping
held water entitlements from productive use.”

Senator Davey said the obvious conclusion was that focus has strayed from the original objectives of
the Water Act 2007 in favour of overly simplistic numbers.

“Our Members like Damian Drum and Anne Webster, who live in the Basin, are acutely aware of
these issues, which is why, as Nationals, we will continue to highlight these issues at every
opportunity, in order to get water policy back-to-basics.

“We cannot put our communities through further water buybacks, but we can do better with the
environmental water we have.

“We cannot keep striving towards 450 extra gigalitres when we haven’t got agreements to deliver the
water we already have, through sensitive areas like the Barmah Choke.

“It is time to stop looking at mythical water recovery numbers that came from estimates.

“River operators, environmental water managers and even the state jurisdictions have recognised it
is not that simple, and yet we still have bickering about numbers between the jurisdictions.

“If we all agree to focus on outcomes, we can have much better implementation of The Basin Plan
and better outcomes for our communities and our environment,” Senator Davey said.

The Committee took submissions from stakeholders across The Basin and held public hearings in
Canberra, Sydney, Griffith, Mooree, Goondiwindi, Deniliquin and Shepparton.

The Report can be read online at: