The Murray-Darling Basin Authority will be split in two and on-farm water recovery will be taken off the table following an announcement by Federal Water Minister, Keith Pitt who has also committed new funding for communities.
Senator for NSW, Perin Davey welcomed the announcement and said it was high time the Government categorically ruled out taking any more water from farm licences.
“The greatest harm from the Basin Plan has come about from untargeted, open-slather buyback that occurred when Labor was in power and to hear this Minister say he is refocusing on outcomes rather than entitlements is a relief,” Senator Davey said.
“I lobbied hard to have the social and economic impacts assessed because I knew anecdotally what Robbie Sefton and her independent panel have now proven in their report that was released today.
“The Basin Plan says you cannot recover the 450 if there is social and economic harm and now we have a report that says there is no way you can avoid such harm if you continue to focus taking water from farmers.
“In fact the Sefton Report says communities have already been economically harmed, so I am pleased to see the Minister will provide new money to invest in our regional communities through both the Economic Development Fund and a new program for community led river and wetland health projects.”
Senator Davey explained the Murray-Darling Basin Authority will be split with the compliance functions to be moved into a new Inspector General of Water Compliance.
“Trust in the MDBA is non-existent in communities which has largely been driven by the view that they have been marking their own homework.
“Even the Productivity Commission recommended splitting the MDBA so there could be no real or perceived conflict of interest. It has taken too long but I am glad that this Minister has listened and is addressing that concern.
“I also believe there needs to be further decentralisation of both the new Inspector General and the MDBA so they are based right where the impacts of their decisions are felt,” she said.
She said there was a lot of work to be done to restore faith in the agencies that manage the rivers and rebuild trust in the communities.
“A single source of truth is a good start and there will be more to do when the final ACCC report into the water markets is handed down.
“Today’s reset is progress, but we need to work with communities and we need to listen to them to develop projects to manage water and deliver environmental outcomes without needing any more water.”