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Parliament supports changes to Murray-Darling Basin Plan

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has welcomed a range of government commitments, with the passage of two sets of amendments to the Basin Plan passed by Senate.

The first set of new commitments include stronger compliance and better protections for environmental water, as well as positive outcomes for Indigenous communities and Basin communities.

The second, consists of effective implementation of the projects tied to the Basin Plan SDL amendment.

Tied to the amendments is a process of state-developed case studies, assessing how the river is operated, including any need for infrastructure, from which the MDBA will quantify the environmental benefits of each project.

The MDBA will make an independent recommendation to amend the Plan to allow work on the projects to continue.

Also tied to the amendment is the recovery, through efficiency improvements with positive or neutral socio-economic impacts, of an additional 450 GL of water for the environment.

In a joint statement, members of the MDBA said environmental water was an important part of the amendments and that they are pleased the government has welcomed these amendments to the Plan.

“The importance of protections for environmental water in the northern Basin was a key consideration in our decision-making following the Northern Basin Review,” they said.

“We are pleased that governments have strongly reaffirmed their commitment to fully and transparently implement these measures, and that this work will have the additional assurance of a Northern Basin Commissioner to oversee progress.”

MDBA Chief Executive Phillip Glyde said these changes will also help protect communities in the southern Basin from unnecessary further socio-economic impacts of water recovery, while also securing important improvements to allow water for the environment to be used more efficiently and effectively.

"In the southern Basin, work will now be able to progress on design, consultation and implementation of important projects to help us get water for the environment to the right place, at the right time, and in the right amount,” he said.

The MDBA also acknowledged that implementing the Plan is a work in progress and is not without challenges.

“The Basin Plan is our best pathway for securing the future of our most iconic river system and the communities and industries that depend upon it. It is an achievement Australia should be proud of.

“Other countries look to our nation as having some of the best and most successful water management policies in the world. Implementing the Plan is not easy and not without challenges - but it is working, and its benefits will continue to grow year after year.”

Glyde added that these amendments bring the authority closer to in-full, on-time implementation of the Basin Plan, and improves its ability to deliver the environmental, social and economic outcomes required by the Plan.

"We are only part way into its implementation, but we know the Basin Plan is working. It is generating positive environmental outcomes and driving improvements in irrigation efficiency and productivity.

"These benefits will continue to grow and compound over the coming years and decades. I am confident it will create a healthy river system, with a secure future, supporting vibrant communities."