Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment who holds responsibility for water in the new Federal Government has provided comment on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (Authority) draft Constraints Management Strategy (Strategy). Senator Simon Birmingham’s comments provide assurance that the policy will not be detrimental to the rights of irrigators affected by the proposed Strategy.
The Authority developed the draft Strategy in response to the requests of the Basin Ministers, namely, the Federal water Minister and the State water ministers for New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (Basin States) that the Authority undertake a study as to the constraints as part of the Basin Plan. The Basin Plan was adopted by the Federal Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities under the Water Act 2007 (Cth) in November 2012 and provides a coordinated approach to water use across the Basin States (Basin Plan). By constraints, the Strategy is referring to how the volume and/or timing of regulated water delivery are currently governed through the river system via river rules, practices and structures.
The Strategy deals with the types of constraints to the delivery of environmental water which will require examination over the next 10 years and proposes a timetable for phased assessment and decision-making during this period.
The request by the Basin States to include the Strategy is due to the recognition of various environmental benefits which would arise through the delivery of higher flow peaks in the future if the current rules and operational structures were altered. Although the Authority has expressly stated that such flow peaks would be predominately below minor flood levels.
In response to concerns by various irrigator groups that the draft Strategy adopts language which will bring about changes to water rights, Senator Birmingham has assured such groups that the security of their members’ water entitlements will not be changed by the proposed Strategy. He also stated that there will be no compulsory acquisition of land for easements, rather, it is an opportunity for the Authority to look at how the rules in the current system work without risking the reliability of water entitlements.
However, irrigator groups remain concerned that the Authority is changing the characteristics of water entitlements against previous governments’ commitments not to do so.
Therefore, whilst the Authority and the Government have publicly provided these assurances on irrigation rights, irrigators remain concerned as to how this Strategy will be implemented in the future and how it will affect their water entitlements.
The draft Strategy prepared by the Authority closes for public comment on 30 October 2013.
The Holding Redlich Agribusiness & Rural Industries team will monitor the Authority’s proposed Strategy and report on any developments as they arise.
If you have any queries or require any assistance with your irrigation and water entitlement enquiries, please contact us.
Author: Adele O’Driscoll
Ron Eames, Partner
T: +61 7 3135 0629
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