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Published: 25 March 2019   •   Media release

Progress to complete the suite of water resource plans that govern water use across the entirety of the Murray–Darling Basin is on a steady footing, according to the quarterly report issued today by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA).

MDBA Executive Director Partnerships, Carl Binning, said the Basin Plan set out clear and exacting requirements for water management by state and territory governments in each water resource plan (WRP) area.

"The 33 water resource plans form the basis of river water and groundwater use in the Basin, including the limits on how much water can be used," Mr Binning said.

"Each plan is developed by the relevant Basin government and must be assessed against the Basin Plan by the MDBA before it can be considered for formal accreditation by the Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.

"South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT all took the opportunity to apply to the Minister for extensions to the Basin Plan's 30 June 2019 deadline for WRP accreditation. A regulation made under the Water Act 2007 has provided extensions of up to 10 months."

Mr Binning said the additional time provided to finalise the remaining WRPs would not affect the Basin Plan's implementation schedule.

"Basin governments have acknowledged that the new limits on water extraction and the commitments to protect and better manage environmental water will come into effect on 1 July 2019, regardless of WRP progress.

"In a February 2019 statement, the MDBA alerted Basin state and territory governments to the Authority's requirement to have key policy issues resolved before WRPs will be recommended to the Minister for accreditation.

"This quarterly report shows that while the pace has picked up over the past year, there is significant work required before the end of the year to formulate, review and assess the plans.

"Only one WRP, Queensland's Warrego-Paroo-Nebine, is accredited and operational, and one other, the South Australian Murray Region, has been recommended by the Authority for accreditation and is with the Minister for his consideration.

"We're pleased to have six plans currently with the MDBA for formal assessment and expect a further five plans to be submitted for formal assessment by 30 April 2019."

Mr Binning said the quarterly report showed the ACT, Queensland, South Australian and Victorian governments were on track to have their WRPs accredited early in 2019-2020.

"With responsibility for 20 of the 33 WRPs, New South Wales has made notable efforts to accelerate the work underway, and draft material for all plans has been provided to the MDBA for review.

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

"The MDBA is preparing for the delivery of all New South Wales WRPs for thorough and efficient assessment in the second half of 2019."

The MDBA's process is fully transparent, and ensures that all WRPs received for assessment, the assessment framework and the quarterly progress reports 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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