Water compliance needs consistency, says MDBA

MDBA finds Basin states could do better on compliance consistency

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COMPLIANCE CONSISTENCY: Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Chris Brooks agrees there's an urgent need to improve consistency.

COMPLIANCE CONSISTENCY: Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Chris Brooks agrees there's an urgent need to improve consistency.

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Basin Compliance Compact now needs to mature, says MDBA,

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The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has found compliance consistency between the Basin states needs to improve.

MDBA Office of Compliance head Daniel Blacker said a report into compliance consistency has found the focus now needed to shift from activities to outcomes.

The Basin Compliance Compact is a 2018 agreement between Basin governments to improve public confidence and provide transparency and accountability in water management.

"The review found that the Compact continues to be an important transparency tool, as it holds jurisdictions to account on their commitments, however, now is an appropriate time for the compact to mature," Mr Blackner said.

"The lack of uniform standards in the Compliance Compact means that where Basin governments broadly committed to the same action, there are considerable differences in how that action is being implemented by each government. "

He said consistency across the Basin needed to improve.

"There needs to be improved consistency in compliance across the Basin before people will consider it to be fair and then, over time, fairness will lead to trust and confidence," Mr Blacker said.

As a starting point, governments had committed to benchmarking water compliance performance across the Basin.

"Communities are asking for an 'apples and apples' comparison between states at the Basin level," Mr Blacker said.

"It's not enough that compliance is done, it needs to be seen to be done consistently in all states."

Mr Blacker said the assessment showed that while states were working hard to fulfill commitments in the Compact and many actions were complete, some had not yet delivered on the community's expectations for metering and measuring water take.

"All Basin governments have made good headway in the past year, particularly on compliance frameworks and reporting, however progress on delivering water metering accuracy and coverage is uneven," Mr Blacker said.

"Metering, measurement and monitoring are compliance fundamentals that need to be in place before we can expect public confidence to improve.

" The hard work of states is yet to translate into improvements on the ground in many areas."

The changes Basin states were making to the Compliance Compact itself would go some way to improving community confidence that all states were adhering to the same rules and outcomes.

Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Chris Brooks agreed there was an urgent need to improve consistency.

"Different states do whatever they like," Mr Brooks said.

"They have deviated so far from the original Basin Plan it's not even recognisable.

"It's definitely not effective."

He said the "massive, unknown" volume of water involved in floodplain harvesting in NSW and Queensland was a case in point.

"We have been screaming about it for years - they are allowed to take water and are completely unregulated," he said.

"We have proven, with satellite photographs since the 1994 cap was put on those valleys, they have increased dam storage from a bit over 500 gigalitres to more than 1500GL.

"For that to happen and not be metered, measured or licenced, is affecting everyone downstream, down the Darling and including the Murray."

Mr Brooks said every Murray Irrigation District farm had a meter, to accurately measure every litre they took.

"We would argue, this year there have been four million megalitres taken out of the northern catchment, they had to fill their storages for next year, and only eight per cent have compliant meters."

In Victorian, $2 billion had been spent on the Connections Project to save 126GL.

"These blokes are taking millions of GL up there, with no meters and no charge."

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