Blog | 22nd Oct, 2013

Constraints and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan

We promised to keep you posted on the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. It’s been almost a year since it was approved by the federal Parliament and there has been plenty of work going on behind the scenes. Now the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has released a draft Constraints Management Strategy for public comment.

What’s that, you say? Constraints are things that get in the way of delivering environmental water to the places where it is most needed out of the river channel. They can be physical structures like levee banks, low bridges or the size of the outlets that let the water out of the dam, or they can be rules and regulations about how water is delivered. There’s also a big issue with the potential flooding of private land when environmental watering is planned. The MDBA has to come up with a strategy for managing these constraints as part of the Basin Plan, and the draft is the first public airing of their ideas.

We think they are on the right track – the MDBA has identified the major physical constraints and some of the operational ones, and are planning more detailed work on ways to remedy them in consultation with the local communities. Resolving constraints means that more environmental objectives can be achieved with the water that will be returned to rivers under the Basin Plan – and that means healthier wetlands and forests, more birds, more fish and better water quality.

But the MDBA needs support – there are plenty of strong voices who would have you believe that dealing with constraints is unnecessary or impossible, and that the delivery of environmental water will be a total disaster for river communities. In fact, the opposite is true – working through the issues and resolving constraints can also provide protection from inundation when a natural flood arrives.

So please consider making a brief submission to the MDBA about the draft strategy. You could include the following points:

  • The MDBA is on the right track in developing the strategy, and their emphasis on community consultation is excellent
  • Resolving constraints is really important for getting full value out of the billions of dollars being spent on water recovery for the environment. For a taxpayer who is footing the bill, this is a very important consideration.
  • Resolving constraints can bring benefits to communities, for example the resolution of longstanding issues such as responsibility for maintaining levee banks, the creation of easements to allow the passage of floodwater and improvements to bridges and other infrastructure that is subject to repeated flooding.
  • The key objective of the strategy must be improving environmental outcomes, which will have flow on benefits for river communities.

You can comment on the strategy until 30 October. Please take the time to do so.

A couple of other bits of good news about the Basin Plan – the Abbott government has committed to delivering the Basin Plan on time and in full and over 1600 gigalitres  of water has already been recovered for the environment. That’s half way to the overall target of 3200 gigalitres – under the Plan we’ve got another 10 years to accumulate the rest!