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Published: 19 February 2018   •   Media statements

Claims the Northern Basin Amendments would have taken 70 GL away from the environment are completely back-to-front.

The Basin Plan is about taking water out of production and returning it to the environment.

In fact, the Northern Basin Amendments would have delivered 320 GL back to the environment in perpetuity each and every year from 2019.  This is more water than the environment currently has—not less.

The Northern Basin Review was always part of the Basin Plan—and the resulting Amendments in no way represented a weakening of the Plan, but were part of its full and proper implementation.


Back in 2012, the Basin Plan set default targets for how much water would need to be taken out of production and returned to the environment to secure the future health of the river system, and the communities and industries that depend on it.

That water would need to be taken out of production gradually, so the new targets could be reached by 2019.

In the Northern Basin, the default target was 390 GL.  However, this target was based on quite limited evidence—so the Basin Plan built in a mandatory review to gather and analyse more information and amend the target up or down if needed.

That review was led by the MDBA as the independent expert agency responsible for the Basin Plan.  We based our work on the best available science and evidence, extensive consultation with communities and stakeholders, and had it peer reviewed by independent experts.

Our job was to determine how much water was enough to secure the intended environmental benefits of the Basin Plan, without destroying local communities and industries.

We determined that 320 GL, coupled with a ‘toolkit’ of measures agreed between the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland to protect environmental water and small flows, was the right amount to do this.

More than this, the MDBA’s assessment was that 320 GL of water for the environment, coupled with the ‘toolkit’ measures to improve water management and enhance the environmental benefits of that water, would in fact deliver superior environmental outcomes to the Basin Plan’s default target of 390 GL.

The Basin Plan’s new limits on water take become law in mid-2019.  If the Basin Plan falls apart now, we risk losing all the progress that has already been made, and the future of the Murray–Darling Basin will once again be in peril.


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