Victoria secures Basin socio-economic study

Victoria secures Basin socio-economic study


Victoria’s Water minister Lisa Neville has said she’s secured an agreement for a comprehensive socio-economic assesssment of the impacts of the southern Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Victoria’s Water minister Lisa Neville has said she’s secured an agreement for a comprehensive socio-economic assesssment of the impacts of the southern Murray Darling Basin Plan.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC STUDY: Lisa Neville, Victoria's Water minister, said she's successfully argued for a socio-economic study, on the southern Murray-Darling Basin.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC STUDY: Lisa Neville, Victoria's Water minister, said she's successfully argued for a socio-economic study, on the southern Murray-Darling Basin.

Ms Neville was in Mildura for the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council meeting (MinCo).

She said she had successfully secured agreement for the review.

 “We need a Plan that delivers the environmental outcomes that we signed up to, not just achieving a  water recovery target,” Ms Neville said.

“Given the level of community concern about further water recovery we need to be making evidence-based decisions to ensure that we are delivering on the triple bottom line outcomes.”

“My priority is that we deliver the Basin plan in a way that protects all water users – which is why it’s critical to ensure Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG) considers the socio-economic impact of the Plan.”

This would ensure the additional 450 gigalitres of water above the target of 2,750 gigalitres was only delivered with neutral or improved socio-economic outcomes.

It would take account of work Victoria has already done to assess socio-economic impact in the north of Victoria.

Agreement was also achieved on a way to secure the remaining 650 gigalitres  of water required under the plan without any more buybacks of water.

Ms Neville said this was influenced by the work of the independent panel set up by Victoria and New South Wales to look at the offsets mechanism.

Victoria ensured that the pathway to be considered by COAG achieves Basin Plan targets in a way that protects communities – who are at the heart of the successful delivery of the Basin Plan.

Ms Neville said she drove agreement that the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) would report regularly to the Ministerial Council, and that the Council would better embed complementary measures  to achieve environmental outcomes under the Plan.

In it’s Communique, the council said ministers discussed recent progress towards major milestones in the implementation of the plan, in particular the extensive community engagement as part of the amendments process.

“Ministers were updated on progress with the sustainable diversion limit (SDL) adjustment mechanism and its scope to improve the socio-economic and environmental outcomes of the Basin Plan.

“Ministers were informed by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) that the SDL adjustment mechanism is on track to maximise the offsets outcome.

“Basin governments will need to settle the details of the package of measures in time for the Ministerial Council to make a decision regarding a second notification in June 2017.”

A final determination on the SDL adjustement will be made by December 15.

“Through an agreed package of supply measures under the SDL adjustment mechanism, Basin governments are seeking to offset the full remaining water recovery gap in the southern Basin. Governments have identified a credible pathway to achieving this aim,” the communique said.

Ministers also agreed to a plan to present to COAG that provides credible and balanced possible pathways to implement the Murray–Darling Basin Plan package agreed in 2012, including:

supply measures to offset the Basin Plan water recovery target of 2,750 gigalitres (GL) by 2019, using the SDL Adjustment Mechanism;

constraints measures to address impediments to delivering environmental water; and

efficiency measures to recover an additional 450 GL by 2024, consistent with the Basin Plan legal requirement to achieve neutral or improved socio-economic outcomes.

The plan will be presented to COAG First Ministers at their next meeting and released to the community at that time.

Ministers agreed to the terms of reference for an independent analysis of efficiency measures, to ensure neutral or improved socio-economic outcomes, which will report in December 2017.

This study will report on the potential socio-economic impacts from the design of measures at a range of scales, including socio-economic concerns that go beyond the specific legal requirements of the Basin Plan, and on strategies that may be required to ensure neutral or improved social and economic outcomes.

The study will take into account information arising from the Murray–Darling Basin Authority's evaluation of Basin Plan impacts and any other relevant information.

Together with the MDBA evaluation, this will provide Ministers with a comprehensive set of information on the cumulative socio-economic impacts of the Basin Plan, including the recovery of the 450 GL through efficiency measures.

The MDBA provided Ministers with an update on the proposed amendments to the Basin Plan, particularly those arising from the Northern Basin Review.

Once the MDBA has considered community input provided during the public consultation phase, each Minister will be provided with the proposed amendments.

Council will then have the opportunity to provide the MDBA with its response.

Ministers noted work currently underway in NSW and Queensland to further assess a range of 'toolkit' measures, including to achieve environmental outcomes intended to support the proposed outcomes of the Northern Basin Review. The MDBA has recommended the following toolkit measures:

Targeted recovery of water

Event-based mechanisms

Improved protection, management and coordination of environmental flows

Gwydir constraints and targeted environmental works and measures, such as fishways.

Ministers acknowledged that these measures are intended to achieve environmental outcomes with less water, particularly during dry times.

Ministers reiterated the importance of receiving regular update reports from the CEWH on its environmental water portfolio, associated decision-making and outcomes achieved. This will provide greater understanding and transparency about the ecological outcomes being delivered by the Basin Plan through environmental water held by the CEWH.

The next meeting of the Ministerial Council will be held in Canberra in June.


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