Dubbo meeting reviews water plan
THE Productivity Commission was in Dubbo this past week asking for submissions into its review of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
According to Commissioner John Madden, his agency plays a vitally important role – and an independent view.
“We come in for this review every five years as a check and balance. The Productivity Commission is independent from the process, so we allow that critical eye to be cast without fear or favour – that in itself is a good check in the process,” Mr Madden told
“We also focus on what’s going to be really effective and efficient going forward.”
This round of hearings in Mildura, Murray Bridge, Shepparton, Dubbo and Canberra saw a variety of issues brought up by community members, some of whom travelled for hours to get to the Dubbo sitting.
The Commission published a draft report in August on its inquiry into the effectiveness of the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP), and these current submissions are all about hearing people’s reactions so that those recommendations can be refined and put into a final report to government by Christmas.
Jane Doolan was the other commissioner at the Dubbo hearings.
“What we’ve found in both our initial consultations and in the current one is that we’re seeing some of the plan in action, and people are able to see if there’s shortcomings or issues on elements that need refining,” Mrs Doolan said.
“We’ve heard a range of comments, all around the basin; the issues are different in every region but what we are doing is actually using that commentary to improve our recommendations.
“The plan is a balance – it’s balanced between environmental needs and economic requirements and impacts on regions,” she said, adding that since the plan was first rolled out in 2012 “we’re starting to see both the benefits and areas where improvements can be made”.
Mrs Doolan maintains there have been significant improvements and progress made on the plan with a lot of water being recovered, with environmental water managers working well together to deliver that water.
“So there are elements that are going really well, however the next five years are very challenging,” she said.
“What we’re getting now is community feedback which is very valuable to us. We really value their input and we’ve had good participation around the basin.” John Madden agrees.
“It really improves our recommendations. One thing we did was consultation early on and we heard a lot of the issues and did a lot of research, but once you formulate your ideas, for improvement, it’s really good to test (those ideas) with local knowledge,” Mr Madden said.
Ian Cole travelled from Bourke on behalf of Barwon Darling Water to have his say.
He said it’s an emotionally-charged debate.
“A water sharing plan is just that – you’ve got to share water when it’s there in plenty and you’ve got to share it when it’s scarce, and that’s what we’re doing at the moment. We’re trying to set rules and relationships between upstream and downstream (users) so that water can be shared equitably and used sensibly,” Mr Cole said.
Another submission was made by Mel Gray who spends much of her time working with Dubbo Macquarie Bushcare and with Inland Waterways’ River Repair Bus.
“The claim of over-recovery in the Macquarie and Gwydir Valleys has resulted in the Northern Basin Amendments reducing the amount of water in our environmental accounts,” Ms Gray said.
“The amendments were calculated in a rush, and no new science was done to assess the health and resilience of the rivers and marshes.
“The modelling used must have been flawed because the data available did not include the volumes of water removed from the valley by floodplain harvesting, and the use of cap factors is not transparent and does not follow the basic principles of accounting,” she said. *John Ryan is employed part-time by Mid Macquarie Landcare as a Local Landcare Co-ordinator.