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Published: 17 June 2019   •   Media release

Progress to complete new water resource plans for the Murray–Darling Basin is well underway, however delivery of some plans is behind schedule according to the latest quarterly report issued today by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA).

MDBA Executive Director of Water Resource Planning and Accounting, Dr Peta Derham, said the coming months would be a test of the state and territory governments' commitment to submit high quality water resource plans (WRPs) that comply with the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

"It is very pleasing that proposed WRPs for areas in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT have now been assessed by the MDBA or are in the process of being assessed," Dr Derham said.

"We are working with the New South Wales Government, which is responsible for 20 of the 33 WRPs, to ensure comprehensive plans for that state are brought forward in a timely manner for thorough and efficient assessment in the second half of 2019.

"The Australian Minister responsible for water has granted extensions for some individual WRPs and is considering further requests. With extensions granted it is expected that WRP commitments will be duly delivered.

"Regardless of when WRPs are completed, key elements of the WRPs must be in place on 1 July 2019 before the MDBA will recommend WRPs to the minister for accreditation. These elements include new limits on water diversions and the protection of environmental flows.

"It's of utmost importance that local communities have the opportunity to provide their input to the plans, to ensure they are effective, accurate and of the highest quality. This takes time and is an essential requirement of the WRPs' final assessment."

Dr Derham said the water resource plans were a critically important foundation of community confidence that water was used within the agreed limits.

"The WRPs underpin the new rules against which river water and groundwater use will be measured in future. Our role is to rigorously assess each WRP's consistency with the Basin Plan, using a clear process set out in the Commonwealth Water Act.

"There is considerable work involved to ensure each plan is thoroughly evaluated and a robust recommendation prepared for the minister responsible for water. The minister then determines whether to formally accredit the plans.

"As at 17 June, Queensland's Warrego–Paroo–Nebine has been accredited and is operational, South Australian's Murray Region, the Queensland Border Rivers–Moonie and the Condamine–Balonne areas have been forwarded to the minister for consideration, and nine plans are with the MDBA for assessment."

The MDBA's process is fully transparent, and ensures that all WRPs received for assessment are published on the MDBA website at mdba.gov.au/basin-plan-roll-out/water-resource-plans.

The MDBA is an independent, expert authority, and will continue to work with Basin state governments to ensure that the Basin Plan is implemented in full, to secure the future health of the Murray–Darling river system and the communities that depend on it.

ENDS

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