​Media Release

Murray–Darling Basin Plan legislative amendment tabled

14 November 2017

The Australian Government has today tabled a legislative amendment to the Murray–Darling Basin Plan as recommended by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, to strike a better balance between social, economic and environmental outcomes in the Northern Basin.

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Anne Ruston, said the key change would be to reduce the water recovery target in the north from 390 GL to 320 GL.

"The MDBA's analysis found that 70 GL less water recovery will save about 200 jobs in local irrigation-dependent communities, while still delivering the environmental benefits identified under the Basin Plan," Minister Ruston said.

"The MDBA made this recommendation as a result of their four-year Northern Basin Review. Through this extensive and comprehensive review process, hundreds of community members, as well as environmental, Aboriginal, industry and community stakeholders contributed to the evidence base for the amendment.

"I know that there are communities in the Northern Basin that have been doing it tough and will have concerns about the prospect of any further water recovery. 

 "Since coming to power, this government has worked hard to reduce the socio-economic impacts of the plan while still delivering positive environmental outcomes, and to provide more stability and security to Basin communities that have felt the impacts of past indiscriminate water buybacks.

"We have capped buybacks at 1,500 GL and have prioritised investment in more efficient water infrastructure to deliver the water savings required under the plan while strengthening agricultural productivity.

"In the Southern Basin, we are close to finalising the outcome of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism which, combined with the delivery of all contracted water recoveries by states, will mean no further gap-bridging water recovery in the Southern Basin.

"We will continue to work to deliver a healthy and productive future for the Murray–Darling Basin—and for the rural and regional communities that depend on it.

"The Australian Government is committed to delivering the Basin Plan on time and in full."

The Basin Plan Amendment Instrument 2017 (No. 1) has been published on the Federal Register of Legislation at https://www.legislation.gov.au/.

More on the Basin Plan amendments can be read at mdba.gov.au/basin-plan-roll-out/basin-plan-amendments.

Fast facts

  • The Northern Basin Review involved the gathering of new social, economic and environmental data which fed into in-depth research and analysis, and was also informed by extensive consultation with communities and industry experts.
  • Other changes in the Basin Plan Amendment Instrument 2017 (No. 1) include a decrease in three groundwater area water recovery targets, and technical improvements to enable effective and consistent implementation of the Basin Plan.
  • Agricultural production in the Murray–Darling Basin is worth more than $20 billion—around $7 billion of this is from irrigated agriculture.​