Ministers get their feet wet

By Alana Christensen

Murray-Darling Basin water ministers will be consulted on proposed legislative changes to strengthen the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s compliance and enforcement powers.

Agreed to at the December 14 Ministerial Council meeting in Melbourne, the changes would see new civil penalties and criminal offences to deal with conduct such as water theft.

Northern Basin Commissioner and former Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, told the MinCo meeting he was optimistic about a growing compliance culture across the northern basin assisted by two recent successful prosecutions.

He told ministers much work remained to ensure appropriate metering, monitoring and measurement of water use.

The MinCo meeting included the announcement of an agreed neutrality test to be applied to any water recovery projects.

The agreed test will be applied community-wide, rather than the previous individual test, helping to ease some concerns about the effect the basin plan is having on local communities.