Constraints Management Strategy
During the public comment period 9–30 October the MDBA held meetings in Basin towns. Summaries of these meetings and a link to published public comments can be found here.
The Constraints Management Strategy is part of the implementation of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan. It has been developed over the past 12 months through technical assessments and consultation with local communities and industries and incorporates the views and suggestions from a public comment period in 2013.
The 'constraints' in this context include two things: one relates to physical structures along or near the river, like bridges and roads, which stop us getting water to some areas in the volumes and at times its most needed. The second refers to the river practices that have been developed over the past century, mostly to support navigation and irrigation. Some practices, or even the absence of them, mean we don't use environmental water as efficiently as we could.
The historical development of the river system and the evolution of the complex river operation practices that govern river flows has supported the growth of the Basin's vital irrigation industries as well as the growth of communities and towns, but it has affected the environment as a result of changing how, when and where the Basin's rivers flow.
The aim of the Strategy is to improve the environmental outcomes achievable beyond current operating conditions by allowing better use of environmental water while avoiding, managing or mitigating impacts to local communities and industries. The changes being investigated are modest and aim to increase the frequency of some of the small to medium flow events that are already occurring.
The Australian Government has committed $200 million to relax or remove constraints that are identified as priorities by Basin States.
The Strategy sets out a 10-year phased process to investigate options to modify constraints, to assess the impacts of these changes, to identify and cost the options to avoid or mitigate impacts and to implement solutions. Under this timetable, proposals to address constraints will be considered by governments in 2016 with implementation occurring from 2016 through to 2024.
An important principle of the Strategy is that any solutions to overcome constraints will recognise and respect the property rights of land holders and will not create any new risks to reliability of water entitlements.
Last year, MDBA outlined three phases of work to be done between now and 2024 to help governments decide where changes might be made in the basin and to implement agreed solutions. We also identified areas in the basin where we want to focus our attention for the work on the physical constraints. They were chosen because by changing constraints in these areas, we’re likely to get the best environmental gains.
This year, we’re doing the first phase of work—the prefeasibility phase—which involves looking in more detail at those areas. We've already collected a lot of information from landholders and communities in our focus areas about how different flows might affect their land. Since those discussions last year, we've made updated maps for these areas showing where water flows under different scenarios. Over the coming months, we plan to meet again with landholders and other stakeholders about this new information and to build on the previous information we've collected. The information will be developed into reports, including data and facts about a stretch of river—they won’t make any recommendations or decisions.
They will be used, however, as supporting material for a recommendation report to basin ministers at the end of the year, and therefore, we plan to publish them on our website before then. The reports will describe the effects of delivering certain types of flows in areas, and what some options might be to lessen or overcome those effects. For example, building bridges or buying easements might be considered as mitigation activities.
We've also done further work to better understand the potential effects on the river system if some river practices were changed or new ones were introduced. While there are hundreds of different river practices, our focus is on just a handful that could help us use environmental water more efficiently. MDBA will be working with the basin governments and industry bodies to decide which river practice constraints should be a priority focus.
Our guiding principles for this work recognise and respect property rights of landholders and water entitlement holders, such as irrigators. Any recommendations won’t create new risks to the reliability of their water.
MDBA will hold discussions with interested stakeholders about the CMS throughout the year.
Progress made this year on both areas of constraints work will be included in the annual report to ministers at the end of the year. Basin governments will then decide which constraints projects will be investigated in more detail including further discussions with communities.
Please contact the MDBA on 1800 230 067 or email email@example.com to register your interest in being involved.
We spent a great part of 2013 speaking with local and state government representatives, industry and interest groups, and landholders–particularly those living around areas where there are key constraints. Community consultation was a central element in developing the Strategy and continued following its release.
The finalised strategy can be found here.
During October 2013 MDBA held many meetings in key areas of the Basin to provide an update on the Basin Plan and to discuss the draft Constraints Management Strategy. Summaries of public meetings are available here.