27 September 2023

Murray Basin healthy plan running uphill

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The plan for a healthy and sustainable Murray-Darling Basin may not be achieved by the June 2024 deadline, according to a report from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA).

Chief Executive of the Authority, Andrew McConville said the latest assessment of progress to implement the Murray-Darling Basin Plan found only minor movement in the past six months, with important elements at risk or unlikely to be achieved by the deadline.

The Basin Plan was agreed by the Federal, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory Governments in 2012.

It is a major reform agenda that was created to improve and protect the health of the rivers for future generations, while continuing to support farming and other industries.

“The Basin Plan needs to be fully implemented if it’s to achieve the outcomes we’re seeking for a healthy and sustainable Basin for all communities,” Mr McConville said.

“It is becoming clear what will and won’t be achieved by June next year,” he said.

“Since the July 2022 report card, we have seen some progress with four New South Wales water resource plans (WRPs) accredited for groundwater resources.

“However, the dial remains firmly on the red because there is still a way to go to get all the WRPs accredited”

Mr McConville said that the dial for some projects under the Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment mechanism also remained “on red”.

He said that of the 36 supply and constraints projects, 22 were likely to be operable, eight were on the cusp of delivery and six would not be delivered as originally proposed by 30 June 2024.

“We’ve seen positive outcomes from good planning and delivery of environmental water across the Basin,” the Chief Executive said, “this is critically important and underpins the very foundation of the Basin Plan to support the health of rivers, floodplains and wetlands.”

“The focus of the past six months has been to support bird breeding events and to improve water quality where floods have resulted in low oxygen levels.”

He said some of the northern Basin toolkit measures in the northern Murray-Darling Basin were running behind schedule, with one measure in particular highly unlikely to be delivered on time.

“These important initiatives are intended to protect water for the environment, improve compliance with water laws and create opportunities for local communities, including First Nations People,” Mr McConville said.

“It is in everyone’s interest that greater headway is made towards completing the northern Basin toolkit measures,” he said.

MDBA’s latest Basin Plan Report Card can be viewed at this PS News link.

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