Call to split MDBA into two

By Country News

A parliamentary inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has recommended the Murray-Darling Basin Authority be separated into two entities, endorsing an earlier recommendation from the Productivity Commission.

The recommendation comes as there is increasing concern about the authority’s ability to carry out both its compliance roles and act as an adviser and support for basin states.

Tabled in Federal Parliament late last month, the Integrity of the water market in the Murray-Darling Basin report endorsed the division, stating the Basin Plan Regulator should be established as a new statutory independent authority.

‘‘A number of submitters and witnesses expressed frustration over a perceived lack of consultation on behalf of the MDBA, with regard to the administration of and to the basin plan,’’ the final report said.

‘‘Further concerns were voiced over a lack of transparency around the actions of the MDBA and of basin states, particularly with regard to compliance activity.’’

A Murray-Darling Basin Water Compliance Review also acknowledged the strong community and stakeholder concerns that the MDBA’s compliance powers were ‘‘unclear’’, including the view that the MDBA should more actively enforce compliance with the basin plan.

In response to the report, Federal Government senators Slade Brockman and deputy chair Barry O’Sullivan, who were both on the committee, said they were concerned about the range of risks in separating the functions of the MDBA.

‘‘These include risks to the implementation and delivery of the basin plan itself by June 30, 2019,’’ the senators said.

‘‘Any separation would also require the approval of all jurisdictions and significant renegotiation of both the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement and the Water Act 2007.’’

The committee recommends the Federal Government ensures sufficient funding and resources are allocated to the Basin Plan Regulator, once established, to ensure that it is adequately resourced to undertake effective compliance, evaluation and review functions.