​Media release

Taskforce report confirms Coalition is delivering Murray Darling Basin Plan; confirms importance of Plan to the northern basin​

7 February 2018​

The Federal Coalition Government has released the Northern Basin Programs Taskforce Report, fulfilling a recommendation of the Northern Basin Review. 

The Taskforce Report confirms the Coalition Government is delivering on the Basin Plan.

Further, former Chief Executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission Wendy Craik has been nominated as an independent person to bring together the findings of various compliance reviews – the Ministerial Council agreed that an independent person be appointed, and are currently considering this nomination.

The Taskforce was assembled by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to investigate how water could be recovered while minimising impacts on farmers and communities, and to respond to other recommendations in the Northern Basin Review.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud said the Northern Basin Programs Taskforce report clearly shows the Coalition Government’s delivery of the Murray-Darling Basin plan is on track in the north.

“This report is the result of extensive consultations with communities, key industries and groups, local councils and state and Commonwealth government agencies,” Minister Littleproud said.

“The Coalition government worked hard to reduce socio-economic impacts of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan while still delivering the flows to ensure the future of the river. 

“The northern Basin has been doing it tough. That’s why I’m fighting so hard to defeat a disallowance of the Northern Basin Review in Parliament and not take another 70GL from local communities.

“The Northern Basin Review will reduce the northern basin water recovery target from 390 GL to 320 GL, saving almost 200 local jobs, while still delivering environmental benefits.

“But if the Northern Basin Review is disallowed in Parliament, the water recovery target for the northern Basin will revert back to 390GL.This will remove wealth from communities with little benefit for the river system.

Minister Littleproud said the report found in delivering the Plan, the Government had:

  • Invested an extra $9 million to the MDBA over the next three years to beef up compliance
  • Agreed to develop a Basin-wide Compliance Compact with the states as per the Murray Darling Basin compliance review
  • Delivered a commitment to table amendments on the Northern Basin Review and the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism.
  • Delivered a commitment to table amendments on the Northern Basin Review and the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism.
  • Seen former Chief Executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission Wendy Craik nominated as an independent person to bring together the findings of various compliance reviews – the Ministerial Council agreed that an independent person be appointed, and are currently considering this nomination.

In addition, today the Coalition Government is announcing that it has accepted all recommendations in the Taskforce report, including committing up to $180 million over the next six years to deliver on environmental works and measures as agreed in principle by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council, including: prioritise Aboriginal and local suppliers in delivery of these works; support for Dirranbandi, St George, Collarenebri and Warren communities for local engagement facilitators to help identify development opportunities and funding options; and funding for a facilitator to work with Aboriginal communities to address their concerns about water management and promote development opportunities.

The Coalition Government will also use some of this funding to assist in refurbishing the Wilcannia and Collarenebri weir pools, important to local communities.

“I will also work with my New South Wales and Queensland colleagues to deliver improvements to indigenous peoples’ access to northern Basin rivers and waterways and to further support these communities through the refurbishment of weir pools in Wilcannia and Cunnamulla,” Minister Littleproud said.

“If the Northern Basin Review is disallowed by Labor and the Greens, we lose these projects as they are paid for through the water recovery savings.

“I still hold my hand out to Labor’s Tony Burke, and the Greens. We cannot afford to lose a Plan which took years of negotiation and compromise to achieve.”

The Northern Basin Programs Taskforce report can be found at: www.agriculture.gov.au/water/mdb/basin-plan/

Background

Quotes from the Northern Basin Programs Taskforce report

“The taskforce actively consulted communities to gather ideas and knowledge relating to water recovery options, potential toolkit measures and community assistance.”(pp 2)

“Irrigators, agricultural industry groups, community groups and other local councils, particularly in Queensland, generally (although not universally) welcomed the proposed reduction in the water recovery targets as it would mean less water needing to be removed from agricultural production.” (pp 7-8)

“There was broad community and industry preference for any further water recovery to be through infrastructure improvements.” (pp 8)

“During its consultations, the taskforce heard that environmental works and measures were seen as a positive way to enhance environmental outcomes and provide community benefits.” (pp 13)

“In particular, there was strong support for environmental works and measures that would address Aboriginal interests where possible, while also providing opportunities for local employment.” (pp 13)

“Stakeholders suggested a broad range of projects to implement the environmental works and measures that included proposals such as fishways, fish restocking and establishing snags in rivers.” (pp 13)

“These discussions [by the taskforce] revealed that a broad suite of Aboriginal and regional economic development, employment support and community building programs are currently available to northern Basin communities (Table 3).” (pp 16)

“The taskforce has proposed a strategy that seeks to recover the water in a way that minimises any further impacts on local communities and enables water users to plan for the future. In addition the Taskforce has identified several ways to provide further community support through the implementation of toolkit measures and community engagement/development facilitators.” (pp 23)