OPINION: The MDBA (Murray Darling Basin Authority) has reappeared in the southern basin and makes no apologies for their conspicuous absence.
The 300-plus members were apparently concentrating on the Northern Basin Review and therefore the Southern Basin was put on hold.
MDBA Senior staff, including the CEO Phillip Glyde and the Chair Neil Andrews, were asked about the principle of “adaptive management” embedded in the legislation.
“Adaptive management” is really just an elaborate, academic term for something we instinctively do as business and water managers. It essentially means we must learn from our mistakes and then improve management strategies based on what we learn. In essence, it’s common sense.
These questions sparked heated discussions about the draining of the Menindee Lakes and the Lower Darling in 2013/14. The result was a lack of positive community or environmental outcomes.
One of our largest native fish habitats and native bird breeding areas along with local communities and Broken Hill were all left struggling. It was not just the MDBA. As the water rapidly drained downstream in 2013, so did the responsibility of the management of the lakes.
This all occurred immediately prior to a severe drought in the north and questions were also asked of the states in terms of their ability to successfully adaptively manage the system.
Was there perhaps a lesson to be learnt by all of the management, state and federal? Now it’s 2017 and, after natural flooding in 2016, the brimming Menindee Lakes and the Lower Darling are being rapidly drawn down, yet again. A massive 35,000ML to 45,500ML per week is being released by the MDBA as ‘flushing’ flows off downstream to the Lower Murray and South Australia into a system that is already swollen.
Does this look like something that we would call an attempt to improve natural resource management via the principle of adaptive management or learning from mistakes? The MDBA insists complicated, overlapping and politically motivated rules and regulations are to blame.
To us, it appears the environments and communities dependent on Menindee and the Lower Darling are expected to be ‘adaptive’ to confusing and counterproductive management conflicts between politicians, bureaucrats and departments.
It seems it’s the ‘management’ that isn’t taking a good hard look at obvious mistakes, isn’t taking a dose of common sense and isn’t managing the system according to the basic principle of ‘adaptive management’.
Helen Dalton and Debbie Buller are regular contributors to The Area News.
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