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Published: 06 February 2018   •   Media release

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) stands by the Northern Basin review process, and urges all parties to examine its detailed and published evidence when considering the amendments currently before Parliament.

The MDBA's recommendation was based on the best available science and evidence, and involved an extensive and comprehensive review process over four years.

The MDBA made this recommendation because we identified that the environmental benefits sought through the Basin Plan could be delivered with 70 GL less water recovery—while saving about 200 jobs in local irrigation-dependent communities.

The MDBA was well aware of concerns about the protection of environmental water in the Northern Basin during the Northern Basin Review, and this was a key consideration in our decision-making.

To address these concerns, a 'toolkit' of measures was agreed between Queensland, New South Wales and the Commonwealth to ensure protection of environmental flows in the Northern Basin. When implemented, the MDBA is confident that environmental benefits will be delivered. Work on these measures is already underway, but will be jeopardised if the amendments are disallowed.

In addition to these Toolkit Measures, the MDBA and an independent panel have conducted a thorough review of compliance across the Basin, and we are already working to implement its recommendations—including actions that will further strengthen the protection of environmental flows in the Northern Basin.

The MDBA's Basin-wide compliance review was agreed by all Basin Ministers, and provides a strong foundation for ensuring water is properly used.

This work is complemented by the comprehensive reviews and actions on compliance already undertaken in New South Wales.

The Northern Basin Review process involved consultation with hundreds of community members as well as environmental, industry and community stakeholders. Their views all contributed to the evidence base for the amendment.

This included extensive consultation with Aboriginal community members. The MDBA funded and worked closely with the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations forum, who provided us with advice during this process.

Among the Toolkit Measures are recommendations for Aboriginal outcomes on ground and for deeper involvement of Aboriginal people in water planning and management—again, I fear these benefits may not be realised if the amendments are disallowed.

The four-year process of the Northern Basin Review generated a significant improvement in our knowledge of the Northern Basin. The modelling and data which underpinned our recommendations was strong, accurate and stood up to the scrutiny of independent peer-review.

The MDBA is an independent, science-based and evidence-driven organisation—our chief objective is to deliver the Murray–Darling Basin Plan in a way that will secure the future of this vital river system and the communities and industries that rely on it.

We believe that the changes we have recommended to the Plan in the Northern Basin achieve the right balance between fiercely competing interests.

Basin Plan limits on water take become legally binding in mid-2019. We are on the verge of delivering for the environment, and providing certainty and stability to Basin communities.

I am deeply concerned that disallowance of the Northern Basin Amendments will have significant consequences for the implementation of the Basin Plan—at a time when it is more important than ever to maintain consensus and stay the course.

I hope that the Parliament will take into account the published, professional and peer-reviewed analysis, which is fully documented on our website, in their consideration of these amendments.

Phillip Glyde
Chief Executive
Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA)

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