The Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) is a federal government imposed, coordinated approach to managing water across the Murray Darling river’s four states.
It was signed into effect in 2012. It’s now on the verge of falling apart.
The NSW and Victorian governments reiterated their desire to walk away from the plan after an unfavorable Senate vote last week.
The MDBP has long been criticised by irrigators, and more recently came under fire from a group of pro-environment scientists for being ineffective.
So would we all be better off with it?
Professor Max Finlayson, a research director at Charles Sturt University’s Institute for Land, Water and Society; does not think so.
Prof Finlayson, who used to live in Griffith, said he would be “horrified” if it fell over, and both irrigators and the environment could lose out.
“Under the previous regimes… it wasn’t working, the states were doing there own thing, local issues and vested interests came into play”.
“The environmental was degraded... and it wasn’t going to fix itself”.
“[Under the Basin Plan, irrigators have] some certainty about what’s happening in the system… otherwise you go back to not knowing what each government is going to do. Victoria and NSW are friendly today, but are they going to be friendly next week?”
“I’d like to see the [the MDBP] work, we need to see it work”.
Murrami rice grower Debbie Buller, however, is not so sure the MDBP improved water management.
“The Basin Plan was supposed to give us a more streamlined process, but we ended up with a bigger mess than we had before”.
“I mean, if you’re just going to make everything more complicated and more expensive, why bother?”
Ms Buller observes that we now have 19 different government authorities regulating water management.
“We seriously need to change the conversation… and evaluate the role of the federal and state governments in this”.
“Maybe it’s time we just locked them all in a room and told them to come back with something simple and rational”.
Prof Finlayson wants to see better dialogue too, but thinks the most important people have been left out.
“We need community-based forums across the basin, [not just forums of politicians]”
Prof Finlayson said more decentralisation could also help.
“We need more of the people making the decisions living in the basin”.
Binya farmer Helen Dalton, a political candidate at the recent Murray by-election, agrees.
“For too long, decisions about rural environments have been made in office buildings in Sydney and Canberra”.
“I’d hope [in any future plan] they’d finally decide to undertake true consultation with rural and regional communities”.