The first reason for delay is so there can be an independent review of the science behind the plan. This is clearly a good thing and has been welcomed by the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists. The review is being lead by CSIRO, and we hope that it will result in a clear and transparent explanation of how much water our rivers need to return to health. It’s just a shame it hasn’t happened sooner.
The second reason is to allow more input form the states. It’s the states who are responsible for water management, so it’s understandable that they want to know more about the process and have input. On the other hand it’s the years of bickering and competition between the states that’s largely responsible for getting the river system into the mess that it’s in. The states all see it as in their interest to change how much water is taken out of rivers as little as possible in their state. So the stage is set for yet more conflict over how much water needs to be recovered for river health in each state.
It’s important to remember though all of this what the plan is setting out to achieve, and why. In the words of the MDBA itself:
‘Unless action is taken now, the basin and its communities do not have a long-term future, and consequently face irreversible decline in the environmental health and, in turn, the economic strength of the basin. It is vital to change the balance between water for the environment and water for economic benefit in order to restore the environmental health of the basin and preserve and enhance its long term productivity.’
The Australian Government is spending $10 billion to achieve that change, and federal Water Minister Tony Burke is determined to make it happen. So all the talk about the Basin Plan ripping the heart out of communities is misplaced – what it sets out to do is to give those very communities a long term future based on a healthy river system. And we’re all in favour of that.