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Collaboration and commitment underpin our way forward

We spoke with a selection of River reflections presenters and attendees to get their thoughts on the conference and future water management challenges.

Published: 16 June 2022

A key message from the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) 2022 River reflections conference was the need to respond to the changing conditions and climate by adjusting our approach when necessary.

The sold-out conference, held in Mildura, included 2 mornings of presentations that delved into some contemporary challenges and achievements and looked ahead to what comes next, as well as several interesting site visits each afternoon.  

Delegates’ feedback highlighted how valuable they found the opportunity to connect about water-related issues and hear a diversity of views.  

On her first full day in the job as Federal Minister for the Environment and Water, The Hon Tanya Plibersek gave a virtual address. 

"The River reflections conference is an important way of connecting Basin communities, industries and ideas. Our government is about bringing people together too so we can collectively work through complex and important issues in the national interest. When it comes to the Murray-Darling Basin, we recognise it’s a nationally significant water resource that supports rivers and wetlands, flora and fauna, First Nations, communities, industries and agriculture.  

We recognise that the impacts of climate change have been hardest felt by our Basin communities and their rivers and wetlands. Because of climate change we can expect to see more water quality issues, greater salinity, more fish death events, putting more stress on already stressed ecosystems."

Looking to the future, Authority Chair Sir Angus Houston spoke about the work underway at the MDBA to understand the future of the Basin in a hotter, drier climate.  

"We must adjust our approach based on what we have learnt and continue in partnership with experts, communities and First Nations People. In the next few years, we’ll release the MDB Outlook. It will paint a picture of the health of the Basin’s water resources and ecosystems, First Nations priorities, agriculture and tourism sectors and communities in 2050. 

We will be cross-checking what the science is telling us with the lived experience of Basin communities to make sure it lines up with the trends people are seeing. Partnering with the country’s leading universities, researchers, First Nations leaders and others we will share what we learn with all Basin communities.

The Outlook is the start of the journey as intelligence is gathered about the future.  We will be sharing what we learn with communities every step of the way."

Keynote speaker on the first day, acclaimed demographer Simon Kuestenmacher, set the upbeat tone of the conference by outlining how Murray–Darling Basin communities could reap the rewards of a post-Covid population shift. His high-energy presentation gave a refreshing perspective and was well received by the audience.  

MDBA Acting Chief Executive Andrew Reynolds, in his presentation, said there was now an opportunity to make every drop count, to look after the long-term prosperity of regional communities and industries while caring for our river country. 

"These critical final stages of the Basin Plan are a once-in-a-generation chance to improve the rules around river management, to allow water to move through the system more freely – in ways that would benefit people along the river as well as the river environment we rely on."

A main driver of hosting the conference in a regional centre was being able to hear local perspectives, with several panel discussions featuring agriculture, tourism, water resource and other industry representatives a highly valued feature of the event. 

The MDBA will soon announce where in the northern Basin the 2023 event will be held. If you missed out on any part of the conference, recordings of keynote presentations, panel discussions and breakout sessions are available on the event summary page.

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