Water

Public will be heard, says plan panel chair

By Country News

Communities will be listened to until the ‘‘ink is dry’’ on an independent panel report into community socio-economic health under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, according to the panel’s chair.

Robbie Sefton said the group spent the last week of June engaging with experts and reviewing key studies ahead of the release of the terms of reference this month.

‘‘It’s important that the panel gets to pick the brains of these experts as we work to make sure our planned literature review is comprehensive and includes the best available information and evidence,’’ Ms Sefton said.

‘‘Our intention is to use the information we gather from the experts and from the literature review to start the conversation about socio-economic conditions with the community through a scoping paper.

‘‘We’ll outline the issues as we see them and invite the people who live and work in the basin to tell us if we have got it right.’’

The group intends to be seeking views on a scoping paper towards the end of July and use the feedback to finalise the panel’s terms of reference.

‘‘The job ahead of us is to provide a robust evidence base to governments and decision makers about what is really going on in communities across the basin, so communities can get the right help,’’ Ms Sefton said.

‘‘We’ll be listening and incorporating community input right up until the ink is dry on the final report.

‘‘There’s a lot of complex and interconnected factors affecting rural and regional communities across the basin; there’s population movements, social and technological changes, global markets, drought and some sectors are undergoing structural adjustment.

‘‘Our job is not to review the basin plan, but to make sure we look at how all these issues intersect with the basin plan as well as look more directly at the effects of the basin plan on water use, trade and availability.’’

An interim report is expected by the end of this year, with the final report to be delivered by April 30, 2020.