Water Murray Darling Basin Plan Murray Darling Basin Authority Irrigation

Keelty report endorses more transparency in southern Basin

17 April 2020

Today’s report on the Impacts of lower inflows into the Murray Darling river system has highlighted the need to fix problems with the Murray Daring Basin Authority’s (MDBA) iron-fisted management of the Murray-Darling Basin.

It also endorses irrigators’ calls for greater transparency and data sharing by developing a single water information platform to improve the community’s understanding and give confidence in river operations, allocation and trading.

Interim Inspector-General of Murray-Darling Basin Water Resources Mick Keelty found “there is very little clarity and transparency” on how water sharing agreements are delivered or how much water States are being allocated each year (p. iv).

Earlier this week the Victorian Liberal Nationals backed Victoria’s strong allocation system following a push by irrigators in NSW to increase allocations.

Today’s report found Victoria’s “more conservative allocation policies therefore mean they have more water to allocate to irrigators in dry times” (p 21).

Victoria has a strong, conservative system of water allocation that ensures we are putting away water for future years to provide Victorian irrigators high allocations, more often. This has allowed our system to deliver 100 per cent Murray high reliability allocations in 10 of the past 11 years.

The NSW allocation system maximises yield, meaning the system delivers more water, less often, making it more suited to opportunistic crops.

The Victorian Liberal Nationals also backed the Productivity Commission’s recommendation for a split of the MDBA’s responsibilities for river operations, implementation of the Basin Plan and its regulatory role.

Comment attributable to Shadow Minister for Water Steph Ryan

At the moment the only people who know what is really going on is the MDBA – that needs to change.

Adopting the Productivity Commission report’s recommendation to split the MDBA’s conflicting responsibilities will help address real concerns from irrigators that the authority is a law unto itself.

Greater transparency and accountability is the only way irrigators can have confidence the system is fair and equitable.

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