This is the report of the Senate Select Committee on the
Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The report considers the evidence the committee has
gathered from submissions and hearings in the basin states. This evidence has
provided the committee with a broad range of views on the impacts of the implementation
of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (the Plan) and associated Commonwealth
programs on regional communities.
The Plan was legislated for in the Water Act 2007,
and developed over several years by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MBDA).
It was finalised and presented to the federal parliament on 26 November 2012.
The Plan is a significant reform to water management in the
Murray-Darling Basin (the basin) which for the first time treats the basin as a
single system rather than separate state-based systems. By returning water to
the environment, it aims to deliver economic, social and environmental outcomes
across the basin to ensure sustainable, productive communities and industries
in the basin. The Plan sets an extraction limit of 2750 gigalitres (GL) of
water to be recovered from consumptive use for the environment each year.
The committee supports the overarching principles of the
Plan and acknowledges that some elements of implementation are producing and
encouraging efficient water use and positive economic, social and environmental
outcomes. However, the committee was concerned to hear that several elements of
the Plan, and in some instances the way the Plan has been implemented, were
having negative impacts on economies and communities in the basin. These issues
were both broad and state-based, and are discussed in Chapters 3 and 4 of the
The committee considers the implementation of the Plan
requires greater effort to minimise its negative impacts.
As the Plan is being implemented, work is occurring in
various states to reassess the volume of water to be extracted for the
environment. In this report, the committee has commented on methods that the
MDBA and other agencies should use to improve outcomes for communities and
industries in the basin. The committee has also made a number of
recommendations about ways to improve the Plan and the manner in which it is
The committee wishes to thank all the individuals,
organisations and state, territory and federal government officials who gave
evidence to the committee.
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