Recent MDBA consultation in the north

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MDBA Chief Executive Phillip Glyde reflects on Basin Plan work in the north

Over the past couple of months I have learnt a lot.

And that is exactly what I wanted to do.

If I had visited communities across the northern basin and heard that the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) had all the answers, I would have been very concerned.

The purpose of talking with you over the last little while was to find out if the results of a three-year review into the north aligned with your understanding of what’s happening in your community and to find where there might be gaps in our knowledge.

We wanted to check and re-check if our work, and what we now know about your communities, fits with what you know. You understand your community, your land and your environment better than any government agency, or I ever will.

We needed to do this review because we did not have the kind of robust information we needed about the north when the Basin Plan was set. The science is now telling us more about what a healthy river system needs and we have a much better understanding of what the effects are on communities and the river when water is recovered.

The three reoccurring themes you told us were:

  • communities are more than farmers, and changes in the ag sector are changes to towns too
  • the Basin Plan has arrived after many other changes that communities are still working through
  • our findings make sense, and people hope decision-makers take into account the good information the MDBA has gathered.

What I have walked away with – having spoken with hundreds of people – is a much deeper understanding of how your communities tick, what issues have played a role in the past, the pressures you are under now and what’s possible in the future.

I’ve heard how development has had an effect on rivers and floodplains, which has created issues around water quality and water security. I’ve heard how production techniques and land and water ownership have changed over the years, and what that means for your employment situation and the way you feel about future investment.

You’ve told me how water plays such an important role for you culturally, socially and environmentally.

Overwhelmingly I’ve heard your very real concern about the impact of water policy – over a long period of time – on you, your community and your livelihood.

As one of the six people charged with making a recommendation in coming months on whether we need to change the settings in the Basin Plan for the north, your individual thoughts and concerns have not been lost on me. Indeed, all Authority members have travelled the north and benefited from meeting with many of you. What you have shared is top of mind in our considerations.

I appreciate the time you have taken and the effort you have put in to help us make evidence-led and well informed decisions. The amount of information we will be considering is immense and there will be many other considerations taken into account.

I can tell you this – it is not just about a volume of water.

I have been upfront and honest with people when I have told them the recommendation we make won’t be an easy one.

The balance we need to get will consider your economy, your community and your environment.

In some cases that will mean we will make a decision affecting your valley that you may not be comfortable with. We also may decide not to change the settings at all.

We need to continue to hear from you and to keep the lines of communication open. There will be a formal consultation process held as we move through this process.

What I can assure you is that any decision we make for the Murray–Darling Basin in the next few months will be to safeguard it as one of Australia’s greatest national assets.

Its continued wellbeing is an essential part of sustaining your communities into the future.

Phillip Glyde
Chief Executive  Murray–Darling Basin Authority

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