Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission Report

Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission - Commissioner Bret Walker SC

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Farm Table says:

111 findings and 46 recommendations were made in the 746-page South Australian report. The investigation began after allegations of water theft in Northern NSW by cotton farmers was aired on Four Corners. Since it's release, news article headlines have read, 'Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission slams authority for 'maladministration'', 'Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission lays bare that 'the system is sick' and 'Royal Commission call for Basin Plan re-write, but at what cost?'

Key findings from the report include:

  • Key aspects of the Basin Plan have not been enacted or implemented in accordance with the objects and purposes of the Water Act.
  • In determining the Basin-wide ESLT and then SDL, the MDBA failed to act on the best available scientific knowledge in a number of respects.
  • Recovering water for the environment through ‘buybacks’ is considerably less expensive than through irrigation efficiency upgrades (efficiency measures).
  • The asserted negative impacts of buyback either do not exist, or have been greatly overstated.
  • The Northern Basin Review (NBR) is an example of gross maladministration by the MDBA. It is an example of how the current management of the MDBA has shown itself unwilling and incapable of fulfilling their statutory functions and obligations.

Some recommendations from the report include:

  • New determinations of the ESLTs, and SDLs for both surface water and groundwater that reflect those ESLTs, should be carried out promptly.
  • Those determinations will require a greater recovery amount than that which has already been recovered.
  • Future water recovery for the environment, including the 450 GL, should be purchased through buyback.
  • The 70 GL reduction in the amount of water to be recovered in the Northern Basin should be immediately repealed.
  • Greater investment must be made immediately by the MDBA and the Basin States in the scientific understanding of the Basin’s groundwater resources.

2019 - Australia - Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission - Commissioner Bret Walker SC
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