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“It’s all about the rivers”

Wednesday, 11th April, 2012

By Erica Visser 

People had to realise that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was created in the interest of the entire river system rather than individual communities, according to Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) CEO Rhonda Dickson.

The MDBA visited Broken Hill yesterday for the last public consultation meeting since the Basin Plan was announced in November.

While Broken Hill would not be directly affected by the plan, the MDBA decided to visit due to concern from locals about the city’s water supply, Ms Dickson said.

“There’s lots of issues and what we want to make sure people understand is that it’s about greater perspective and not just the concerns for individual communities,” she said.

“It’s really important that during the lead up to the implementation of the plan that the potentials are left open for consideration.” 

The plan was due to be finalised later this year but will now be open for review in 2015 before its implementation in 2019.

Ms Dickson brushed off the extensive criticism that has recently come from parties including the South Australian Government, scientists and environmental groups over the viability of the plan.

“There’s always a lot of criticism. The classic one is that we are criticised as providing not enough or too much water,” she said.

“The South Australian Government is worried we’re not giving them enough water and the irrigation community has also expressed concern they will be worse off.

“The fact that we’ve got seven years before the plan comes into effect means we can get support within the communities and clear up a lot of uncertainties in the meantime.”

But Darling River Action Group (DRAG) Secretary Brian (Barney) Stevens said that yesterday’s meeting did nothing to alleviate most of his concerns.

Mr Stevens told Ms Dickson that DRAG would join the SA Government in taking legal action against the plan if it went ahead in its current form.

“We’re still completely unsatisfied with the amount of water to be sent down the river,” he said.

“They said they don’t have enough information and that the Darling River is too irregular to plan.”

Mr Stevens said that he was not happy with the answers or Ms Dickson’s reassurance that the MDBA will study the region. 

Ms Dickson also rejected comments made this week by local MP Member for Murray-Darling John Williams that the MDBA could not explain where the extra water would be used within the system. 

The plan recommends that 2750 gigalitres of water be returned to the system through voluntary buybacks.

“In this estimate we’ve described where every bit of the water will be used,” Ms Dickson said.

She said that, while it was not within the plan, the information was available on the MDBA website.

Public submissions on the Basin Plan close on April 16 and it will then be reviewed by the MDBA which will make any changes before putting the plan before Federal Water Minister Tony Burke.

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