Three way Plan deal flagged

Victoria flags rivers deal with NSW, Commonwealth


Victoria, New South Wales, may strike new deal on Murray Darling plan

The Victorian Government may join New South Wales, in renegotiating a separate agreement with the Commonwealth on the Murray Darling Basin Plan, according to Water Minister, Lisa Neville.


Victoria’s decision followed the Senate’s disallowance of the Northern Basin Review, described as a “slap in the face for communities and the environment,” by Ms Neville.

The Greens enlisted the help of Labor to help block changes, reducing the amount of water being returned to the environment in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Ms Neville said Victorian representatives met with their New South Wales counterparts yesterday, to discuss the best ways to secure the future of the plan.

She said the two parties had discussed alternative arrangements, if the 605gigalitre Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDL’s) were disallowed in the Senate.

“This includes the option of establishing a separate process with the Commonwealth to negotiate a tripartite agreement between Victoria and NSW to continue to deliver this critical part of the plan,” Ms Neville said.

“The 605GL project is also crucial in that it helps Basin States reach the 2,750GL target under the Plan.

“Victoria supports considering off-farm measures that don't negatively impact on communities to achieve the additional 450GL, above the 2,750GL target, under the Plan.

Ms Neville said disallowing the 605GL put at risk:

• $320 million of investment in regional Victorian communities, jobs and local investment

• Nine environmental works projects to help to deliver environmental benefits

• Achieving the 2,750GL water recovery target

• Over 250GL of water buybacks without the 605GL of projects

Ms Neville said the decision to disallow the Northern Basin Review - approved by all states and allowed for in the Plan - was a slap in the face to communities and the  environment.

“Victoria has been implementing the plan as required by the agreement since 2012 - and we are committed to the Plan and the outcomes for the environment,” Ms Neville said.

“This decision is an attempt to reprosecute a plan we all signed up to - including South Australia.

“From the beginning the Plan has always involved a review of the Northern Basin and included provisions for the SDL adjustment mechanism.

“This decision derails that plan.”

She called on the Federal Government to investigate all options to overturn this decision.

“If that is not possible the Plan cannot be delivered.”

Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) Basin Water Taskforce chairman Daryl Hoey said the big question was what Victoria was prepared to do, to keep the plan going.

DISALLOWANCE DISAPPOINTMENT: Lisa Neville, Victoria's Water Minister, said  the decision to disallow the Northern Basin Review - approved by all states and allowed for in the Plan - was a slap in the face to communities and the environment.

DISALLOWANCE DISAPPOINTMENT: Lisa Neville, Victoria's Water Minister, said the decision to disallow the Northern Basin Review - approved by all states and allowed for in the Plan - was a slap in the face to communities and the environment.

“At the end of the day, it’s always been the states that have had to come to an agreement on how to implement and carry forward the plan,” Mr Hoey said.

“If one or two states are not at the table, it puts the plan into disarray.

“At the very least, it has created a whole lot of distrust among the political players and the community.”

Mr Hoey said the Senate decision was purely political and driven by the upcoming South Australian election.

But he urged the States and Commonwealth to find answers to the current impasse.

“If they renegotiate, they have to renegotiate under a new framework as to how decisions are made, so states and communities are not held to ransom,” Mr Hoey said.

“It’s going to be very hard.

‘Regardless of what people’s criticisms are, it wasn’t perfect but the States were still able to work with each other, implement change and come to a consensus and agreement as to how to go forward.

“We have come too far down this path, and felt too much pain, for the plan to fall over.”

He said trust would be hard to rebuild.

“Words are cheap, but actions take a bit more conviction to carry out and it’s obvious some politicians thought they could just call the bluff and people would back down,” Mr Hoey said.

“We will just have to see how far it all goes now.”

Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) chief executive Phillip Glyde said he was disappointed the Senate had voted to disallow the amendment to the Basin Plan affecting the northern Basin.

“The MDBA stands by the Northern Basin review process, which was based on the best available science and evidence, peer-reviewed by independent experts, and involved an extensive and comprehensive consultation over four years,” Mr Glyde said.

“The MDBA is an independent, science-based and evidence-driven organisation, and we will remain focused on our chief objective—to deliver the Murray–Darling Basin Plan in a way that will ensure a sustainable future for our nation’s most important river system and the communities and industries that rely on it.”

He urged all parties to “continue to work together in a spirit of consensus and cooperation to deliver the Basin Plan.

‘This remains our nation's best pathway for securing the environmental future of this vital shared resource and the communities that depend on it,” Mr Glyde said.

“In undertaking the Northern Basin Review, the MDBA was well aware of concerns about compliance, high levels of unregulated take, and the need for effective protection of environmental water in the Northern Basin.

“These issues are not signs of problems with the Basin Plan—on the contrary, they further underline the need for the Basin Plan.”

And New South Wales Murray lobby group, Speak Up Campaign, agreed the disallowance motion was the latest proof too much of the Basin Plan was about politics, rather than developing effective, balanced water policy.

Spokesperson Loretta Warren said the plan was not delivering the social, economic and environmental balance that was promised.

“In addition, every time we get to an important phase in its implementation – like we did this week – ‘playing politics’ takes over,” Ms Warren said.

“That tells us we need to take a fresh look at what the plan is delivering.

“Frustration has reached fever point with the political games being played, whether it’s from food producers and local communities who are being affected, or the bureaucrats trying to implement the plan.”

She said politicians continued to break promises and tried to wreck any attempts at achieving balanced water policy in their selfish attempts to win votes.

“So let’s take a step back, reset the plan and work out how we can achieve outcomes that protect the environment, while still growing the food we all need.”

Mrs Warren said the narrow focus taken by the Greens, with support from Labor, was distressing for hard-working Australians in rural and regional areas.

“The Greens talk about large corporates taking too much water, but ignore the family farmers in the Southern Basin who respect the land they manage and want nothing more, or less, than a Basin Plan that delivers fairness and balance.

“As a consequence of the political games, these producers who are providing food and fibre for our nation, and the rest of the world, are punished.”


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