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Published: 12 December 2022

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority met on 9 December 2022 on Ngunnawal Country (Canberra). All members were present.

Members acknowledged the ongoing flooding crisis affecting many regions across Australia, including the Murray–Darling Basin. While some communities are now working to recover from the impacts of recent flooding, others are still inundated or preparing for the arrival of flood waters as they move through the system. The impacts on livelihoods and wellbeing have been devastating for many people.

The Authority commended the ongoing efforts of the MDBA river operators to provide significant flood mitigation for communities downstream of Hume Dam, with twice the volume of the dam's capacity having been carefully released over the past 6 months to manage downstream flows. This has enabled the peak outflow from Hume Dam to be moderated throughout winter and spring. River operators continue to closely monitor the weather, inflows and forecasts and to manage Hume Dam in line with changing conditions. This work is done in close collaboration with the Bureau of Meteorology, Goulburn-Murray Water and WaterNSW.

The Authority noted continued progress by the New South Wales Government to deliver its water resource plans (WRPs), including the accreditation by the Australian Water Minister in November 2022 of the NSW Murray–Darling Basin Fractured Rock WRP – the second for New South Wales. Seven more plans are undergoing formal assessment by the MDBA and a further 9 plans are in the pre-submission phase.

Executive Director for Basin Plan, Tim Goodes provided the Authority with an update on the work of the Water Reform Taskforce as it relates to the MDBA. The taskforce was established under the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water to provide policy advice to the Australian Water Minister to expedite delivery of the government's significant water reform agenda.

Members were briefed on the preparations underway for the 2025 Basin Plan Evaluation, including progress to establish a design panel of suitably qualified and experienced representatives. The work of the panel will guide the delivery of a robust, high-quality evaluation that will support the direction of major work in the future.

The Authority was updated on the progress of the Basin Plan Report Card for the 6 months from July to December 2022. The Report Card presents the MDBA's independent assessment of progress against five key elements of the Basin Plan: water resource plans, water recovery, the sustainable diversion limit adjustment mechanism, Northern Basin initiatives, and environmental water delivery. It is due to be published in early 2023.

The Acting Executive Director of Basin Strategy and Knowledge, Greg Manning, briefed the Authority on the progress and planning of the Murray–Darling Basin Sustainable Yields and the Sustainable Rivers Audit. Originating prior to the adoption of the Basin Plan in 2012, these programs are being revived with funding announced by the Australian Government in the October budget. Rescoping is focussed on renewing their strategic purpose in the contemporary context, to ensure their intent reflects the scientific advancements of the past 10 years and the current needs of water reform.  

The Authority approved the First Nations Participation in Water for the Environment report 2021-22. This annual report documents how holders of environmental water have involved Indigenous people and considered Indigenous values and uses when planning environmental watering in the Murray–Darling Basin (s175 Water Act). Members were pleased that despite ongoing challenges of COVID-19, there had been good progress in the 2021-22 reporting period, with Basin governments working to ensure First Nation voices have been, and will continue to be, included in key planning processes.

The Authority was also briefed by the Chair and the Executive Officer of the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) on a number of current issues and opportunities. Members reaffirmed their commitment to a strong and resilient partnership with all First Nations people and discussed progress on continuing representation and consultation with First Nations people in the northern Basin.

As the last Authority meeting for 2022, members expressed sincere thanks and recognition of the hard work and collaborative efforts by all MDBA staff, and partners in government, Basin communities, industries, the science community and all advocates for a healthy and strong Basin. The deep respect and care for each other across the Basin will stand us in good stead for the work ahead in 2023.

The next Authority meeting will be held on 27 February 2023.

Sir Angus Houston (Chair)

Professor Stuart Bunn

Dr Jane Doolan

Ms Roseanne Healy

Ms Susan Madden

Mr Rene Woods

Mr Andrew McConville (Chief Executive)

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