Report shows the water falls
A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry into water use integrity and theft in the Murray Darling Basin has highlighted significant shortfalls in management and oversight.
And the strength and success of the Basin Plan, and ensuring the appropriate allocation of water between agriculture and the environment, hinges on basin states “implementing and enacting effective water compliance and enforcement regimes”.
The final report, tabled last week by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee, said the Australian Government must separate the Murray-Darling Basin Authority into two entities and establish a new independent regulator, supporting an earlier recommendation of the Productivity Commission.
The findings come just days after a cotton grower from far northwest NSW pleaded guilty to three charges of water theft, following allegations of water theft in the northern MDB in an ABC Four Corners investigation.
The committee found the southern and northern basins of the MDB were “considerably different”, with different regulatory oversight frameworks, and “less regulation and development” in the northern basin.
It said while South Australia had the highest metering rate with 96 per cent of ‘take’ being metered, in the northern basin between
25 per cent and 51 per cent is metered.
“With no more than
51 per cent of northern basin surface water metered, it appears to the committee as no surprise that such large-scale water theft is alleged to have occurred in that area,” the report says.
“The lack of proper metering and monitoring makes it difficult for authorities to determine if breaches of the water rules have occurred, and if so, to what extent.
“This in turn makes prosecution, or other enforcement activity, hard to instigate.”
The inquiry highlighted different approaches to compliance and monitoring regimes taken within NSW, depending on the geographical area.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud would not specifically comment on the findings of the senate inquiry or the cases of water theft currently before the courts in NSW but he insisted compliance was not something to be afraid of.
“Compliance is what shows the Australian people the Basin Plan has integrity and also that the vast majority of farmers do the right thing,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Those who do the wrong thing should be nailed.”
is what shows the Australian people the Basin Plan has integrity... and also that the vast majority of farmers do the right thing.
— David Littleproud
A map of the Murray-Darling Basin.