The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) appears reluctant to appreciate the importance of robust science underpinning its plans for reduced water use across the Basin, Coalition Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham said today.
It follows confirmation in Senate Estimates today, under questioning from Senator Birmingham, that there is no scientific basis for the Authority’s split target approach to the Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDLs) to be proposed in its imminent proposed Basin Plan.
The approach was outlined last month:
“In order to see how much water is really needed for the environment at 2019, I propose that we recover half by about 2015 (that’s 950 GL based on our current thinking) and then take stock to see the impact on that amount based on proper adaptive management techniques and a proper program of monitoring and evaluation. The second half (between 2015 and 2019) will see the remaining volume adjusted…”
Craig Knowles, Chair’s Statement, 15 September 2011
Authority officials today confirmed that there was no scientific basis to this split target approach:
“It’s not a scientific rationale. It was really just looking at the timetable over the transition period and knowing the time, if we were to make an amendment to the SDLs in that time in enough time to allow states to incorporate it into their resource plans we would have to take about a halfway mark so that we would be able to do the assessment of the new evidence, go through the process of consultation as laid out in the Water Act in enough time to get it through Parliament in time, so it’s really a timetable issue…”
Dr Rhondda Dickson, Chief Executive, Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Supplementary Budget Estimates, 18 October 2011
“Mr Knowles also indicated in his statement that he does not know how much water is actually required for the environment and that the Plan might change completely from 2015,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“While responsiveness is welcome, the science underpinning the Basin Plan is meant to be solid and robust. Mr Knowles is now talking about 950 GL targets without scientific rationale and before the final SDL is determined.
“Continual delays in delivering the Basin Plan have already wreaked havoc on the implementation timelines for SDLs, resulting in this muddled approach and uncertainty for Basin communities.
“This is yet another result of Labor’s inability to progress important reforms on time, based on all available evidence and in the national interest.”