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Published: 18 November 2016   •   Communiques

The Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council met in Adelaide today to discuss progress towards major milestones in the implementation of the Basin Plan, including the Northern Basin Review, as well as current water management issues in the Basin arising from the very wet conditions over winter and spring.

The council is chaired by the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP (Commonwealth). Other members attending were the host, the Hon. Ian Hunter (South Australia), the Hon. Niall Blair MP (New South Wales), the Hon. Lisa Neville MP (Victoria), and the Hon. Dr Anthony Lynham (Queensland) by phone. The Australian Capital Territory was represented by a senior official. Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources (Commonwealth) was also present.

The council heard from Basin Community Committee chairman Rory Treweeke who urged Ministers to endorse the outcome of the Northern Basin Review including the toolkit measures, emphasising the need for certainty in the community. Mr Treweeke further highlighted the importance of effective monitoring and compliance as part of water resource management.

The council noted progress by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) with the Northern Basin Review and its proposal to release a range of draft amendments to the Basin Plan on 22 November 2016. Ministers and the MDBA are committed to ensuring that any changes arising from the Northern Basin Review will have no negative impacts on triple bottom line outcomes in the southern Basin.  The MDBA will shortly commence consultation with the public about the proposed changes to the Basin Plan resulting from the Northern Basin Review. These proposed changes will be brought back to Ministerial Council for further consideration after public consultation. Ministers encouraged the community to provide feedback to the Authority on its proposals – noting that the comment period closes on 10 February 2017.

Ministers acknowledged the valuable contribution the Northern Basin Advisory Committee (NBAC), the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations and other community and industry leaders had made in contributing to the review. This included a report by NBAC highlighting a range of initiatives called 'toolkit' measures.

Ministers were updated about the impacts and progress of current natural flooding in the basin and expressed concern for affected landholders and communities.  Ministers were provided with a detailed update on the scale of flooding along the River Murray to date.

In response to these impacts, Ministers requested officials to prepare detailed advice for the next council meeting on learnings from recent floods including how to better engage with communities, and whether environmental watering can deliver real flood mitigation benefits while also maximising the potential to improve triple bottom line benefits under the Basin Plan.

Ministers were also briefed on progress with the Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) adjustment mechanism. The MDBA advised that 19 of the 37 notified supply measures had been modelled to date, and that modelling continued to indicate an SDL offset in the order of 400 gigalitres (GL) is achievable through the current notified supply measures. Ministers discussed how to further enhance the SDL offset adjustment beyond 500 GL, including through the second notification opportunity for which legislation has now passed the Commonwealth Parliament.

Ministers noted progress in developing environmental projects, known as 'complementary measures'.

Acknowledging that much of this work is in its early stages, Ministers requested officials to provide the next Council meeting with further advice.


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