Amend­ment won

Wa­ter Act changes passed in lower house

Southern Riverina news - - LOCAL REALESTATE.COM.AU -

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment will still play a role in the al­ter­ation of sus­tain­able di­ver­sion lim­its (SDLs) in the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan, Par­lia­ment de­ter­mined last week.

Pro­posed amend­ments to the Wa­ter Act 2007, tabled last month, were adopted in the lower house last Tues­day with some slight changes.

The orig­i­nal pro­posal was to al­low the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Author­ity (MDBA) to ad­just the amount of wa­ter to be di­verted to the en­vi­ron­ment be­tween 2400 gi­gal­itres (GL) and 3200GL with­out first seek­ing ap­proval.

Af­ter the Coali­tion sub­mit­ted an amend­ment on the pro­posal how­ever, it was passed that any de­ci­sion made by the MDBA on this would re­quire fi­nal ap­proval from the Fed­eral Wa­ter Min­is­ter.

A para­graph that states the MDBA must con­sult the pub­lic for an ap­pro­pri­ate amount of time was also in­cluded in the amend­ment be­fore it was passed.

Mur­ray Group of Con­cerned Com­mu­ni­ties chair Bruce Simp­son wel­comed the change say­ing it pro­vided some as­sur­ances to re­gional com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘I think hav­ing an ad­just­ment mech­a­nism is a good thing, be­cause it could go up or down.

‘‘We must work to re­duce that fig­ure, and fo­cus on the out­comes.

‘‘In ac­cept­ing the Coali­tion’s amend­ment, it puts a level of se­cu­rity into the de­ci­sion mak­ing process — al­beit one driven by po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions.

‘‘If we sim­ply left it to the MDBA, there would be no checks or balances.’’

Fed­eral Wa­ter Min­is­ter Tony Burke ad­mit­ted dur­ing the de­bate he did not agree with the de­mand for min­is­te­rial pre­rog­a­tive to be re­in­stated, but con­ceded it was nec­es­sary in hav­ing an act both sides of Par­lia­ment could agree to.

‘‘I do ap­pre­ci­ate that the struc­ture of how a mech­a­nism can work is some­thing that should have, in struc­tural terms, a work­a­bil­ity that is ac­cept­able to both sides of the Par­lia­ment,’’ he said.

Strong ob­jec­tors of the ini­tial Wa­ter Act amend­ment were Shadow Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Food Se­cu­rity John Cobb and In­de­pen­dent Bob Kat­ter.

Mr Cobb said he could not sup­port the orig­i­nal pro­posal be­cause of a lack in con­fi­dence in the MDBA.

He said he also had lit­tle con­fi­dence the Fed­eral Gov- ern­ment would source wa­ter sav­ings from ef­fi­cien­cies rather than wa­ter buy-back.

‘‘If you go to De­niliquin, Grif­fith, Swan Hill, Mil­dura or Shep­par­ton and ask any­one on the streets whether the wa­ter buy-back has been good for their com­mu­ni­ties, there will be a loud and re­sound­ing ‘no’ echo­ing from the empty busi­ness houses.

‘‘This bill does go to the heart of the gov­ern­ment’s cred­i­bil­ity. As a gov­ern­ment, we had a plan.

‘‘The plan was in­vest­ing in the in­fra­struc­ture and the farm work to the ir­ri­ga­tion and sav­ing the river by do­ing ef­fi­cien­cies and work­ing with the in­dus­try, not get­ting rid of it.’’

The amend­ment to the Wa­ter Act must still be passed through the up­per house to be im­ple­mented.

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