Opinion

Water management getting nowhere

By Country News

By Mark Bugge, Cobram

Is it any wonder we get nowhere?

Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum last week highlighted that in the Keelty report, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority had suggested there was only 50 Gl of unallocated water available in the Murray-Darling Basin each year.

Then, five minutes after the report was released, I read that the MDBA acknowledged that there was more like 375 Gl unallocated a year.

There is actually plenty to go around, but it seems sharing it equitably doesn’t suit the political and bureaucratic narrative.

Then I read historic reports of dolphins swimming well up the Murray River, but last month an MDBA report said the system was always fresh, not estuarine.

I’ve never heard of dolphins swimming in fresh water.

Again, estuarine doesn’t suit the narrative.

I also read that our national Productivity Commission said the MDBA should be split up, Damian Drum called for it to be disbanded, then this was supported by a swathe of Victorian Liberal and National Party politicians.

But at a higher level it doesn’t suit the narrative.

I watched a webinar last week where Mr Keelty said we have to find a better way to manage the system; in other words the current Murray-Darling Basin Plan under the MDBA’s guidance is not working.

And I watched another (rather scary) webinar where the new Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt struggled to give a decent answer to questions on water management.

My conclusions therefore are threefold: Damian Drum knows there’s a huge problem, but can’t convince his government to fix it; Mick Keelty knows there’s a huge problem, but can’t convince anyone to fix it; Keith Pitt doesn’t understand the problem, so there’s no chance he’ll fix it.