Groups com­bine to slam flawed process

Southern Riverina news - - RURAL OUTLOOK -

We can only de­scribe the bu­reau­cratic process de­signed to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on SDL wa­ter sav­ing projects as “alarm­ing” and “dis­grace­ful”.

Our groups are unit­ing to ex­press grave con­cern and call for a to­tal re­view of the Sus­tain­able Di­ver­sion Limit ad­just­ment mech­a­nism process.

Our con­cerns fol­low a se­ries of meet­ings across our re­gions, or­gan­ised by the Mur­rayDar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity, which were sup­posed to ex­plain progress on the SDLs.

But the meet­ings did lit­tle other than ex­pose the flaws and lack of avail­able in­for­ma­tion to give any­one con­fi­dence that they could be suc­cess­fully im­ple­mented and make a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to the Basin Plan.

The meet­ings were a failed at­tempt at com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion that pro­vided lit­tle com­fort to af­fected com­mu­ni­ties.

The lack of de­tail and trans­parency around pro­posed wa­ter­sav­ing SDL projects which need to be signed off in De­cem­ber is of im­mense con­cern.

The SDL process has been rushed and has not al­lowed for ad­e­quate de­vel­op­ment of busi­ness cases with due dili­gence and cost­ings. This lack of ap­pro­pri­ate as­sess­ment is leav­ing govern­ments, com­mu­ni­ties and busi­nesses at risk of third party im­pacts.

Com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives have long been re­quest­ing the tech­ni­cal de­tails of the projects

The fol­low­ing state­ment has been is­sued by South­ern Rive­rina Ir­ri­ga­tors, Mur­ray Val­ley Pri­vate Divert­ers, Mur­ray River Ac­tion Group, Mid Mur­rumbidgee Land­hold­ers Group, Up­per Goul­burn Catch­ment As­so­ci­a­tion and Lower Dar­ling Rep­re­sen­ta­tive. It ex­presses their com­bined con­cerns at the Sus­tain­able Di­ver­sion Lim­its ad­just­ment process be­ing im­ple­mented as part of the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan. The SDL is the max­i­mum amount of wa­ter that can be taken for con­sump­tive use and is due to come into ef­fect in 2019.

to en­sure risks and so­lu­tions could be iden­ti­fied. In fact, we wanted these be­fore they were put to the MinCo meet­ing in July, but re­cent meet­ings showed us this is still not forth­com­ing and pro­vided no fur­ther de­tails.

There is still a long way to go in the com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion process, em­pha­sised by the fact the MDBA took the soft op­tion and de­cided to meet with in­di­vid­ual groups, rather than hold­ing pub­lic meet­ings to dis­cuss the SDLs in some cen­tres. It was dis­ap­point­ing that no meet­ings were held in De­niliquin or Barham, which is the re­gion most im­pacted, and per­haps that is be­cause the MDBA was aware that in these towns it would be held to greater ac­count.

Even MDBA chief ex­ec­u­tive Phillip Glyde ac­knowl­edged his au­thor­ity was ask­ing for com­mu­nity sup­port and en­dorse­ment of SDL projects with­out pro­vid­ing de­tail around each pro­posal.

He apol­o­gised, but still didn’t pro­vide the re­quired de­tail. How can we sup­port any­thing when we can­not as­sess the risk, or pos­si­ble mit­i­ga­tion, that each pro­posal will have on vi­tal el­e­ments like ac­cess to al­lo­ca­tion?

Dur­ing dis­cus­sion at a Shep­par­ton meet­ing on ad­verse im­pacts of en­vi­ron­men­tal flows, Mr Glyde said the MDBA can­not doc­u­ment these im­pacts as it is “too dif­fi­cult”. Yet they are able to con­tin­u­ally re­port on the ad­van­tages.

We be­lieve the MDBA meet­ings on the SDL ad­just­ment process have been an in­sult to the peo­ple of the Basin.

There has been an ap­palling lack of de­tailed in­for­ma­tion. Yet again, it was a ‘tick the box’ com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion process with no pos­i­tive out­come and no in­ten­tion of gen­uinely en­gag­ing with those who will be most af­fected, and are in the best po­si­tion to of­fer so­lu­tions.

We be­lieve there is no op­tion but a to­tal re­view of the SDL process, which has been based on out­dated cli­mate and in­flow data.

State and Fed­eral Govern­ments can­not af­ford any more risk to en­sur­ing pro­duc­tive wa­ter is put to good use and con­tribut­ing to the na­tion’s econ­omy.

They cer­tainly can­not af­ford the flood­ing risks as­so­ci­ated with the vol­umes of wa­ter pro­posed un­der the Basin Plan.

Our groups call for a to­tal re­view of the SDL projects and process. A sen­si­ble out­come would be ex­tend­ing the leg­isla­tive time­frame around the SDLs to en­sure achiev­able projects that have no third party risks and will pro­duce ben­e­fi­cial re­sults.

From what we have ob­served so far, the cur­rent process proves yet again that the whole Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan has been rushed for po­lit­i­cal point scor­ing, rather than pos­i­tive out­comes with the triple bot­tom line that our com­mu­ni­ties were promised.

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