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Dirty dozen

Tuesday, 19th December, 2017

By Andrew Robertson

Over a dozen alleged rule breaches, including water theft, have been reported to the MDBA in the past two years, according to a public register.

One email sent to an MBDA officer in June last year detailed allegations of water theft from the Barwon River at Brewarrina, with the matter referred to NSW authorities.

Another allegation of unauthorised water take from a property in the Gwydir region in late 2015 was not pursued by the MDBA because of insufficient information, though it did refer the matter to NSW.

A total of 14 allegations of non-compliance have been made to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority since December 2015, according to the public register on its website.

The register was set up in the wake of the allegations aired on the ABC’s Four Corners program in July.

The Queensland government has also been accused of wrongdoing, with the register including a claim that the government was using its water buyback program to report false water savings.

Another allegation, received last month, concerns the “mismanagement of the Menindee Lakes”. The MDBA said it was investigating.

Other reported breaches included:

* Allegations that a property at Mount Harris northeast of Nyngan had disconnected all recording devices. The matter was referred to NSW

* An allegation that illegal water taking was happening at a property at Oakey Creek in Queensland, which resulted in a warning notice being issued 

* An allegation made in September concerning unauthorised water take at Wakool in NSW. The matter was referred to NSW authorities

The MDBA says if an allegation is found to be credible it will be referred to the relevant agency and seek regular updates as to its status. It can also instigate its own investigation.

Details of the alleged breaches come as leading constitutional lawyer Bret Walker SC has been appointed to lead South Australia’s royal commission into the use of Murray-Darling Basin water. 

The inquiry will investigate allegations of non-compliance and mismanagement and whether the allegations have been properly investigated.

It’s expected to start in the New Year and report by February 2019.

“If evidence emerges of criminality, we’ll have no hesitation in pursuing the perpetrators,” Premier Jay Weatherill said.

“And if South Australia can demonstrate loss as a consequence of this misbehaviour, we will pursue our civil rights.”

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