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Published: 08 January 2009   •   Media release

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) announced today an independent review of the accounts for the special drought sharing arrangements for the River Murray.

Special water sharing arrangements between New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have been in place since June 2007 as the normal sharing arrangements did not provide for the extreme and prolonged drought conditions that the Basin has been suffering.

The arrangements agreed by First Ministers of those States and the Australian Government, have continued to apply during the  period of unprecedented low inflows and consequent record low water availability.

MDBA Chief Executive Mr Rob Freeman said today that while the special arrangements have served all parties well, they have created accounting complexities, as it is necessary to ensure that no state is disadvantaged when we transition back to normal arrangements.

"After eighteen months of operation, and with no end to the drought in sight, we felt it was important to review the water accounts to ensure transparency," Mr Freeman said.

"It’s critical that Australians have confidence in our management of the River Murray and how we share its waters both now and into the future, should severe drought persist." 

"While we are confident the arrangements are working well, we are keen that the review examines the ‘books’ in light of the current water sharing provisions of the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement."

"I have, therefore, instigated an independent review and am pleased to announce that it will be conducted by Peter Noonan, a former Chief Executive of SunWater."

The review will provide an independent view of the very complex account keeping which sits behind the special water sharing arrangements. 

The review is expected to begin in mid-January 2009 and provide initial findings during February 2009.

Media contact: Sam Leone, phone (02) 6279 0141

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