Water

Drum renews calls for MDBA split

By Country News

Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum has renewed calls for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to be split, saying it's a key step towards further water reform.

Irrigators pushing for water reform keep running into the "brick wall" of the MDBA according to Mr Drum, who said the body was not acting with irrigators’ best interests at heart.

“We need someone to talk on behalf of irrigators,” he said.

“With the current water structure we keep bashing our heads against a wall.

“It's shaping up to be a good season and this is the ideal time to be talking about water policy; let's not wait for a drought to act.”

Calls to split the MDBA have been growing in recent years and formed a key recommendation of the Productivity Commission's five-year review of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan report which was released in 2019.

Mr Drum and other Victorian National Party MPs including Federal Member for Mallee Anne Webster, Senate Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie and Victorian Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan also called for the MDBA to be split into three entities in June.

Mr Drum said he was hopeful the appointment of Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt in February and new Murray-Darling Basin Authority chair Sir Angus Houston on August 8 would result in action.

“I've been writing to Mr Pitt relentlessly about this in the last few months,” Mr Drum said.

The Nationals’ proposal would see the MDBA split into three entities focused on managing rivers and storages, compliance, and engaging with basin states and implementation.

The split of the MDBA is a crucial hurdle to tackling further water reform according to Mr Drum.

“We need to stop the damages of buybacks which are becoming a genuine threat if we cannot meet commitments,” he said.

“Buybacks are a lazy policy of the past. They are damaging and destructive and cannot happen again.”