The Coalition Government is investing $234.2 million to put communities at the centre of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan by focusing on the jobs and economic activity the Plan can generate in regional areas.

Last week Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, launched the Murray–Darling Communities Investment Package, detailing 11 new initiatives to keep the Basin Plan on track while ruling out water buybacks.

Long critical of the recovery of taking an additional 450GL from local irrigation, Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley said that the Commonwealth will now focus the future of the (450GL) efficiency program for off farm projects that avoid taking water from the community.

“18 months ago I asked our Water Minister for an independent investigation of the social and economic impacts of the Murray Darling Basin Plan here in the southern region.

“The Morrison Government is acting on advice from that report and taking it even further. From better community engagement across the Basin, through to localised funding to achieve water recovery that we can all support, this is about empowering real people and real farming families in ways that protect our regional economic base.

“Water Minister Keith Pitt has heard our message loud and clear and I believe he understands the concerns and complaints I have been taking from our communities to the Cabinet table.

Perhaps the most important initiative for us is a thorough investigation of the delivery of water through the Choke and a careful evaluation of what is happening with that water downstream.”

Minister Pitt said that his focus is on delivering the highest accountability when it comes to managing our scarce water resources by establishing a new statutory compliance role separate from the MDBA.

“Communities have told us in no uncertain terms that they are sick of being talked at and not listened to. That feedback came through loud and clear in the Independent Assessment of Social and Economic Conditions in the Basin (Sefton Report) – it highlighted the need to rebuild trust with communities and to ensure they can play an active role in shaping their own futures.

“I want to thank Robbie Sefton and her panel for the report which was a touchstone for us in developing the Roadmap.

“This report, along with the First Review of the Water for the Environment Special Account report (also released Friday), recommendations from previous reviews and the ACCC’s soon-to-be-completed Water Markets Inquiry* give Basin governments the guidance needed to put communities at the centre of the Plan.

“I look forward to regular reports on the progress in implementing the Murray–Darling Community Investment Package from my department and to working with Basin states and communities to maximise the benefits of the Basin Plan.”

A full list of initiatives is available in the Murray–Darling Community Investment Package available on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s website.


*Murray-Darling Basin water markets inquiry

The ACCC’s interim report draws on analysis of comprehensive water market data from 2012 onwards, and the views of a broad range of people with interests in the use and trade of water in the Murray-Darling Basin. It also considers options to improve markets for tradeable water rights, including operations, transparency, regulation, competitiveness and efficiency.

The ACCC is seeking further feedback from stakeholders in response to the issues raised in the interim report, including through submissions. The closing date for submissions to this Interim Report has been extended to 30 October 2020. Make a submission by email [email protected]

The final report is due to the Treasurer by 30 November 2020.