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2013 Winter - Will the Murray-Darling Basin Plan improve with age?

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FPJ1002D - Gordon - The National Farmers’ Federation Perspective on the Implementation of the Basin Plan

FPJ1002D Gordon, L (2103), The National Farmers’ Federation Perspective on the Implementation of the Basin Plan, Farm Policy Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 9-15, Winter, Surry Hills, Australia.

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Depending on the perspective of each person or organisation, the passage of the Basin Plan has met with mixed reactions. For Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) Chair, Craig Knowles, it was seen as a time to celebrate. However, the jury is still out for the irrigation industry and the Basin’s communities who remain concerned about the potential social and economic impacts that implementation may bring.
For the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), a lot of work still needs to be done to ensure that the Basin’s irrigation communities will have a vibrant and sustainable future – as promised by politicians of all persuasions, successive governments and Ministers, and the MDBA.
The drafting of the Basin Plan was at times a painful and divisive process. Implementation will take years but first, work is required to rebuild the trust and respect of the Basin’s community. This is a critical starting point to form the basis of the long implementation phase.
Aspects of implementation that are front of mind are the resolution of the Intergovernmental Agreement, how all governments will work constructively together, what the constraints management strategy will deliver and how the sustainable diversion limit (SDL) adjustment mechanism will offset the volume of water required for the environment.
There is a great deal of difficult work to be done between now and 2019 and success will be dependent on coordination, collaboration, localism, and fairness – and implementation simply cannot be done without the states. With goodwill and cooperation, the NFF believes it can be done.




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Making Decisions About Environmental Water Allocations

There are major changes underway in the management of water in Australia, with one of the most significant being the ownership of water entitlements by the environment. When announced water buy-back programs are completed and promised water infrastructure investments are implemented, the environment will be the sole largest holder of water entitlements in Australia, and that water will be used to restore or improve ecological processes and environmental assets associated with Australia’s major inland rivers.

How that water will be managed; who will be responsible for making decisions about it; how the general community will be able to monitor how well that water is being used; and who will decide whether the environment is receiving sufficient water, are all questions that are yet to be answered. The decisions that will need to be made are complex, because they incorporate both economic (attempting to ascribe economic values to outcomes that can be achieved from alternative uses of water) and scientific (how much water is needed to achieve desired environmental outcomes) elements, and both have considerable uncertainty.

The research project was initiated by the Australian Farm Institute to advance discussion on these questions, and to identify some preferred options for the future management of environmental water in Australia. Given that the Australian public will, in future, be the owners of water assets valued in excess of $3 billion, it is important to make sure these assets are managed in a way that maximises the return from them, while at the same time enabling irrigated agriculture to continue to make a large contribution to national economic output.

The aim of the research reported here was to utilise the knowledge of experts who have extensive experience in water policy issues to further develop thinking on how decisions about allocating water to the environment should be made. This is important not only to ensure environmental water is used effectively, but also because the same decision-making framework will be used to decide how much water will in future be available for irrigated agriculture. Each of the four experts responded in quite different ways to each of the questions posed.

Making decisions about environmental water allocations
is a report stemming from the collective work of two economists - Professor Jeff Bennett and Professor Mike Young - and two environmental scientists - Professor Richard Kingsford and Professor Richard Norris.

How that water will be managed; who will be responsible for making decisions about it; how the general community will be able to monitor how well that water is being used; and who will decide whether the environment is receiving sufficient water, are all questions addressed in this report.

Full Report
June 2010, pp. 1-80 (80 pages)
Publisher: Australian Farm Institute
Authors: Bennett, J, Kingsford, RT, Norris, RH & Young, M
ISBN 978-1-921808-00-5 (Web)
ISBN 978-0-9806912-9-0 (Print)


FPJ1002F - Maywald - The Basin Plan and Australia’s National Water Reform Journey

Maywald, K (2103), The Basin Plan and Australia’s National Water Reform Journey, Farm Policy Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 27-35, Winter, Surry Hills, Australia.

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When it comes to Australian water reform few issues loom larger than the management of the Murray-Darling Basin. It has taken more than a century of protracted negotiation and compromise to finally emerge with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan which was formalised in November 2012.
Now, the National Water Commission – the body responsible for auditing the Plan’s implementation – will start providing independent oversight of progress.
The National Water Commission sees the Basin Plan as a step-change in the governance and management of water resources in Australia’s largest and most important river system. The Basin Plan aims to deliver on the vision articulated in the National Water Initiative (NWI) by restoring the Basin’s rivers and groundwater resources to health and supporting strong communities and resilient industries.


FPJ1002G - Gregson - The MDBA, Where to Now?

Gregson, A (2103), The MDBA, Where to Now?, Farm Policy Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 37-41, Winter, Surry Hills, Australia.

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As a Regulation, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was ‘made’ by Water Minister Tony Burke in November 2012. Sure, it was a disallowable instrument (either House of Parliament could disallow it) but that was highly unlikely to occur. As a result, the Parliamentary process was something of an anticlimax after several years of high profile national debate. Two Members tried a last hurrah with a Disallowance Motion, but it received very little support. The Federal Government likewise tried to breathe life back to the issue by releasing a media statement earlier this year on the theoretical last day for Disallowance (despite the Standing Orders, which govern how Parliament is conducted, being quite clear on hearing the same issue twice in a limited period).
Subsequent to all of that, the most frightening opinion of all came to the lips of too many commentators; the Basin Plan is ‘done’.
Oh, far from it.
Like all far reaching and broad debates, the setting of the high level policy directives is far simpler than working out how to implement them in practice. The difficulty for the Basin Plan lies ahead – a problem exacerbated for irrigators by what will now be a lack of public leverage given the unfortunately common perception that it is ‘done’.


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