The decision was made at the Albury Water Minister’s Council meeting. Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said the state ultimately wanted an independent national inquiry.
“This independent person will allow us to know the facts, investigate serious issues and get on with delivering what is critical for regional communities,” Ms Neville said.
The independent person would examine and bring together the findings of the various compliance reports and provide advice on implementation.
Ms Neville said Victoria made it clear delivering any further on-farm efficiencies to achieve the extra 450 gigalitres (GL) environmental water, being requested by South Australia, would severely impact the economic and social viability of Basin communities.
She said South Australia had rejected Victoria’s offer to pursue opportunities for off-farm water savings that contributed to the 450GL.
“It is disappointing that South Australia is now seeking to block the 605GL of offset projects – this is bad for communities, the environment and could see further water buybacks by the Commonwealth,” Ms Neville said.
Spokeswomen for Deniliquin, NSW based lobby group Speak Up and the Upper Goulburn River Catchment Association said they were heartened by the council outcome.
Speak Up’s Shelley Scoullar said it was great to see NSW Water Minister Niall Blair and Ms Neville had listened to Basin communities. “Continually forcing huge volumes of water down the system is also causing environmental damage in some regions,” Ms Scoullar said. “All governments must put politics aside and focus on outcomes through a triple bottom line approach"
And Jan Beer, from the Upper Goulburn group, said the minister’s approach was heartening, while the appointment of an independent person was also a step in the right direction.
“This is far better than the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) investigating itself, or ticking the boxes on their own behalf, which is what usually happens,” Ms Beer said.
“This independent person will allow us to know the facts, investigate serious issues and get on with delivering what is critical for regional communities.”
Loddon Valley irrigator Ken Pattison said former Murray Darling Basin Commission (MDBC) chief executive Don Blackmore would be ideal for the position. “I think he has an impeccable track record of knowledge and impartiality,” Mr Pattison said.