This chapter highlights some of the key issues discussed during the hearing on cross-portfolio Murray-Darling Basin Plan matters on 23 October 2020.
The committee heard from the following divisions and portfolio agencies of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the department):
Murray-Darling Basin Water Resources Taskforce;
Commonwealth Environmental Water Office;
Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder;
Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA);
Inspector-General of Murray-Darling Basin Water Resources; and
Water Efficiency and Labelling Standards Regulator.
The committee also heard from the National Water Grid Authority from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.
Mr Simon Metcalfe AO, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, gave a short opening statement detailing the department’s approach to implementing the Basin Plan and funding programs to support Basin communities.
Ms Jody Swirepik, Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, gave a brief statement detailing the environmental river flows that have continued throughout drought conditions. Ms Swirepik also reported that this year saw 163 gigalitres of water flow into the Lower Balonne as part of the Commonwealth’s largest environmental watering in the northern basin.
Mr Andrew Reynolds, Executive Director of the River Management Portfolio within the Murray Darling Basin Authority, apologised for the absence of Mr Phillip Glyde, Chief Executive Officer of the agency. Mr Reynolds reported an increase in the water storage levels within the basin and also welcomed retired Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston AK AFC to his role as MDBA Chair.
Topics discussed during the hearing include:
The appointment of the Inspector-General of Water Resources;
Murray-Darling Communities Investment Package;
The department’s response to the ANAO report Procurement of strategic water entitlements;
Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism projects;
Floodplain harvesting reforms;
The Water for Fodder program;
The establishment and independence of the National Water Grid Authority;
Changes to the MDBA’s river management costs; and
Regulations on Australian water systems manufacturers.
Senator Susan McDonald