It’s rough waters for the Murray-Darling Basin plan right now, with news that the federal and state water ministers have pushed the plan back to early 2012.
The meeting of the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council — federal Water Minister Tony Burke met with the Victorian, NSW, ACT and SA water ministers in Albury on Friday, with the Queensland water minister phoning in to the meeting — decided the the delay was required based on “the need to improve community engagement”.
As the press release of the meeting reads:
Ministers have heard loud and clear the concerns of Basin communities about the guide to the proposed Basin Plan and the need for greater community involvement in the preparation of the proposed Plan. Ministers agreed to support a new process for the Basin Plan going forward that will more fully involve state governments and Basin communities.
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The Basin Plan will need to properly take into account social and economic factors, including the needs of urban centres that rely on the Basin. Ministers encouraged the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to release the proposed Basin Plan according to a timetable that allows it to take into account the findings of the House of Representatives Committee inquiry chaired by Mr Tony Windsor, MP …
… Ministers committed to implement these processes consistent with the statutory framework established by the Water Act. Ministers further stressed that greater certainty should be provided for Basin communities and called on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to progress its work so that the Basin Plan can be presented to the Commonwealth Parliament in early 2012.
The plan was originally supposed to be implemented from 2011.
But the “consistent with the statutory framework established by the Water Act” line is particularly pertinent since Mike Taylor, head of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, announced his shock resignation nearly two weeks ago due to the issues with the Water Act. Taylor penned a letter to Water Minister Tony Burke criticising how the Water Act 2007 tied the hands of those trying to achieve water reform, since the objectives of the Water Act declared exactly how much water had to be returned to the Murray-Darling Basin, regardless of community consultation on the plan guide.