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Basin plan scrutiny

Thursday, 13th December, 2018

A dry Lake Menindee PICTURE: Gavin Schmidt A dry Lake Menindee PICTURE: Gavin Schmidt

By Craig Brealey

The Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council will meet in Melbourne tomorrow but local MP Kevin Humphries’ proposal for the Menindee Lakes is not on the agenda.

 The office of the NSW Minister for Regional Water, Niall Blair, said yesterday that Mr Humphries’ suggestion would be tested along with the other water saving options for the lakes and did not need to be approved by the Ministerial Council. 

This week The Australia Institute (TAI) wrote to Mr Blair and the federal Water Minister, David Littleproud, to ask if the MP’s proposal was on the agenda tomorrow, given the impact it would have on Victoria, the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The TAI has analysed Mr Humphries’ idea to have Lake Cawndilla provide all downstream requirements, thereby leaving the rest of the lakes alone, and concluded that it would require the renegotiation of the MD Basin Agreement and Plan.    

Yesterday, Mr Blair said that at the meeting NSW will seek funding to carry on with its consultation and assessment of Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism Projects, including the Menindee Lakes Water Saving Project.

The NSW Government would also take a strong negotiating position to ensure there was a “robust socioeconomic test” of the Basin Plan, said Mr Blair. 

“I believe Friday’s MINCO will be the most critical meeting since the Basin Plan was first agreed in 2012,” he said.  

“If a deal can be reached, we would finally see certainty and the parameters of the Plan firmly entrenched. I’ve said from day one that the Basin Plan can and will be implemented, but not at all costs.  

“We’ve spent months consulting extensively with communities and industry and their overwhelming feedback is that they want a robust and transparent test that allows them to have confidence in the process”.  

Mr Blair said NSW and Victoria wanted to make sure the plan brought environmental benefits “but not in a way that left Basin communities behind.

“We know the pivotal role that water plays in both regional prosperity and the long-term growth of our communities.” 

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