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Independent assessment of social and economic conditions in the Basin

The Australian Government has requested an independent panel undertake an assessment of social and economic conditions in irrigated communities across the Basin.

The assessment will be undertaken by an independent panel, to be announced soon, and completed by the end of December 2019.

This project will be an important part of the longer term efforts to monitor the social and economic conditions in the Basin, and to evaluate the outcomes of the Basin Plan. It may consider:

  • the effect of changing patterns in water use and trade and trends in the temporary water market that may be having an effect on water prices including the role of water market participants (including speculators)
  • water availability and the effects of state water allocation policies and regulations on irrigators and communities
  • the effects of water sharing and river management (including operational rules), on communities, irrigators and the health of the Basin rivers
  • changes in the location, size and mix of irrigated agriculture
  • environmental water recovery under the Basin Plan, including the impacts of buybacks, and government investments in on-farm and off-farm irrigation infrastructure, community development
  • the social and economic outcomes for communities and industries from the use of held environmental water.

Independent Panel

Robbie Sefton (Chair)

Robbie is from northern New South Wales and a primary producer of wool, meat and grains. She has a strong background in agricultural issues and community engagement. She is a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program, a previous NSW Rural Woman of the Year recipient and serves on national boards and advisory groups for governments and businesses.

Dr Deborah Peterson

Deborah is an eminent agricultural and natural resource economist with a background in water management who has past roles with the Productivity Commission, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Victorian Department of Primary Industries and Energy and with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

Rene Woods

Rene is a Nari Nari man from southwest New South Wales with a long involvement in securing rights to water for Aboriginal people, including as Chair of Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations and Operations Manager at Nari Nari Tribal Council. He is the Nature Conservancy project manager in Gayini Nimmie–Caira in southern NSW.

Andrew Kassebaum

Andrew is horticulturist based in the Riverland and Barossa Valley, specialising in the production of irrigated wine grapes. He is an Elected member of the Berri Barmera council, a board member of Regional Development Australia Murraylands Riverland and the Berri Hotel Group, and a committee member of the River Murray Advisory Committee and the Murray-Darling Association Region 5.

David McKenzie

David is Managing Director of the Opteon Property Group, Chair of the Victorian Governments Regional Development Advisory Committee, and the Goulburn Regional Partnership. He is a Board member of Goulburn Murray Water, previous Director of North East Water (Chair) and Goulburn Valley Water, and is also the co-convener of the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMID) Water Leadership Forum.

Bruce Simpson

Bruce has spent more than 40 years in irrigated agriculture with experience in planning, management, practice, water policy, corporate governance and community. He owns and operates a farm advisory business, along with a family farming business north of Deniliquin. He has a long record of involvement with committees and boards in the Murray and Murrumbidgee regions. He is a graduate and Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Program, and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Community consultation

The panel will undertake genuine engagement with communities across the Basin.

Communities and stakeholders have different needs and will be engaged differently.

The project will be evidenced-based and participatory, with the scope of the work and the analytical approach co-designed with community representatives wherever practicable.



Assessment of the social and economic conditions of communities across the Murray Darling Basin and the drivers of change
Southern Basin community profiles
Northern Basin Community Profiles
Published: 08 Apr 2019  •   Independent reports