Opinion: Review criticism disappoints

By Country News

Review criticism disappoints

It is disappointing to see disingenuous criticism of the exhaustive work the Murray-Darling Basin Authority conducted during the Northern Basin Review.

I believe that this criticism has contributed to the decision of the Australian Parliament to disallow an amendment to the basin plan affecting the northern basin.

The Northern Basin Review involved four years of extensive research to inform the MDBA’s recommended amendments to the basin plan.

These recommended amendments included a decrease to the northern basin water recovery target of 70Gl while ensuring better protection for environmental and low flows and safeguarding jobs.

Claims by the Australia Institute and others that the MDBA figures are rubbery are simply untrue and lack an understanding of the hydrological modelling and ecological research involved in the review.

I can personally endorse the thorough and detailed analysis by the MDBA and I am dismayed that all this work is reduced to a sensationalist 10-second grab by fellow scientists and researchers, who understand just how technically complex the work is.

The MDBA considered more than 20 different scenarios to test alternative forms of water recovery on hydrological flows across the northern basin catchments, as well as whole-of-north scenarios.

This was an integral part of the decision-making process, to assess the impact of water recovery on the environment and regional communities.

These multiple scenarios were transparently conveyed in the Northern Basin Review reporting and consultation sessions.

The final scenario recommended by the MDBA included significantly less impacts to flows to the Menindee Lakes and to South Australia, through targeted recovery of water in certain northern basin catchments.

The modelling and data in these scenarios was found to be robust by independent environmental, economic and water experts.

The review process also involved extensive consultation with environmental, industry and community stakeholders. It also included consultation with Aboriginal community members.

Whether stakeholders agree with the final recommendation or not, it is incorrect to question the work and evidence used by the MDBA. I stand by this process and the decision made by the authority.

I believe collaboration and understanding between scientists is the key to informing good public policy outcomes.

Energy should be put towards growing our evidence base, not attacking each other and undermining the premise of the basin plan.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is committed to implementing the basin plan.

The valuable information gained through the Northern Basin Review will not be wasted and will continue to inform future work.

— Professor Barry T. Hart,

Murray-Darling Basin Authority member

Policy change has legal implications

Landowners will be aware that the ‘Reset’ initiative was a change of policy by Goulburn-Murray Water. This policy relates to the implementation of the second stage of the FoodBowl Plan, with Commonwealth money.

Landowners may not be aware of the legal implications of this change of policy.

Goulburn-Murray Water will itself do the works rather than engage independent contractors.

In my opinion, if Goulburn-Murray Water engages an independent contractor, it has a duty to see that the contractor takes care (i.e. supervises the contractor) and is liable itself to rectify damage to private land and for economic loss, including for failure to supply water, if Goulburn-Murray Water is in breach of its duty and loss arises caused by the contractor’s lack of care and skill.

Goulburn-Murray Water, in my opinion, will be liable where it could have avoided the loss by proper supervision of the contractor.

If Goulburn-Murray Water does the works itself, it is not liable for economic loss under section 155 of the Water Act, unless it agrees in writing with the landowner that it will be.

It is wise for landowners to include a provision in their Connections Agreements that the authority is liable for economic loss if works are not completed or water is not supplied on time or if land is damaged and not rectified in time.

This is especially relevant where ground is not prepared or seed not sown in time or water not provided for the autumn season and the landowner suffers economic loss as a result.

— Edwin Kennon,

Lawyer, Kyabram