The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has delivered a scathing assessment of a project New South Wales is relying on to find water savings for the environment: a plan to reduce the size of the Menindee Lakes.
A letter from the head of WaterNSW to cotton grower Peter Harris, saying he was exploring an exemption from the state’s freedom of information laws so it would not be required to release water usage records in future.
…the subsequent lack of action by WaterNSW – even after the widespread publicity and public inquiries prompted by the Four Corner program – prompted EDO NSW to initiate civil enforcement action on behalf of the Inland Rivers Network.
“We took on this case to protect the health of the Murray-Darling Basin river system, which relies on proper compliance with the law,” Elaine Johnson, EDO’s principal solicitor, said.
Photo Ross Lake
“The report is derived from data which belongs to the public, was prepared for public purpose by servants of the public using taxpayers’ money, and should have been made available to the public,” Rex Patrick, the Nick Xenophon Team senator, said, adding the information was “highly relevant to the Northern Basin Review debate”.
“That it wasn’t made available for Parliament’s consideration is nothing short of a treachery,” Senator Patrick said.
Genuine science and comprehensive evidence provide balance in the debate over the Murray-Darling Basin in this article in the Sydney Morning Herald 15th Feb 18.
We hear from Mal Peters (former Chair of the Northern Basin Advisory Committee), Maryanne Slattery (former MDBA staffer), Bill Johnson (formerly a NSW environmental water manager and staffer with the MDBA) and Fiona Paton (environmental engineer with the University of Adelaide).
By: Dr Emma Carmody | Senior Policy and Law Reform Solicitor | EDO NSW
16 February 2018
On 14 February 2018, the Australian Parliament voted to disallow a proposed amendment to the Basin Plan to – amongst other things – take 70 GL (or 70 billion litres) away from the environment in the northern Murray-Darling Basin (MDB). The proposed amendment was based on work undertaken by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) as part of the Northern Basin Review (NBR).
Since our national Parliament exercised its right to reject this amendment, the State of New South Wales has intimated in an official media release that it will walk away from the Basin Plan, claiming that the NBR ‘was always part of the Basin Plan package’ and that ‘[t]his move makes the Basin Plan untenable for NSW.’
We have received a number of inquiries from clients about the meaning of these statements, and their possible implications for the ongoing management of scarce water resources in our largest – and most important – river system. The following analysis is designed to separate fact from fiction.
Click below for the full opinion
There is no Plan B: NSW must stay the course and save the Murray-Darling Basin Plan
Premier Gladys Berejiklian should take the water portfolio from the Nationals and recommit to implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on time and in full.
“The NSW Nationals have proven time and again they are unable to manage water for NSW,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.
“By their reckless actions and mismanagement, as revealed by ABC’s Four Corners, the Nationals are jeopardising the ecological health of our river systems, the livelihoods of river communities, and decades of complex planning and negotiation.
The Federal Government must step in to implement the Murray Darling Basin on time and in full if NSW follows through on its threat to withdraw from the Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council. 
There is no time to waste. The Basin remains in a poor state.
The Murray-Darling Declaration was signed on 5 February 2018 by 12 leading experts on the Basin. The Declaration is about how to fix what is going wrong in the Murray-Darling Basin. It is not about politics or playing the ‘blame game’. The signatories have come together to make the Declaration to highlight their real concerns and to offer solutions.
The Northern Basin Review was a review of water recovery figures legislated under the current version of the Basin Plan. The idea was to undertake further scientific and socio-economic analysis to determine if new evidence justified varying the volume of water being returned to the river system in the Northern Murray-Darling Basin.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority recommended removing 70 gigalitres (GL) of water from the pool of environmental water. Crucially, their recommendation included the removal of 14GL of water from the catchment that is home to the Gwydir Wetlands (near Moree) and 12GL from the catchment that is home to the Macquarie Marshes (near Warren), both of which are listed under the Ramsar Convention.