SA withdraws support for SDL package after Victoria, NSW refuse to commit to 450GL

Date posted: 19 December 2017

Hon Ian Hunter MLC

Minister for Water and the River Murray

South Australia is deeply disappointed with Victoria and New South Wales for refusing to commit to delivery of the promised 450GL of water in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and has withdrawn its support for the 605GL sustainable diversion limits package sought by other states.

In the first meeting of Murray-Darling Basin state ministers since the explosive Four Corners programme in July, the states could not agree on delivery of the 450GL that South Australia negotiated and the Prime Minister recommitted to last year.

Ernst and Young’s independent analysis of how best to recover this final 450 GL is expected to be released publicly in late January.

South Australia did welcome an agreement by Murray-Darling Basin state ministers to adopt a standardised method of reporting compliance, with the aim of publishing a standardised set of compliance data to stop rorting across the Basin.

Water Minister Barnaby Joyce did not attend due to an imminent Federal Cabinet reshuffle.

Background

This is the first meeting of Basin Ministers since the Four Corners programme, which resulted in a flood of accusations, evidence and investigations into water theft, corruption and the undermining of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The historic Basin Plan agreed in 2012 aims for water recovery outcomes equivalent to 3200 GL per annum by 2024. This includes the 450 GL to be recovered through efficiency measures.

This water is needed to enhance environmental benefits along the river, reduce salinity in the Coorong and Lower Lakes and increase flows to Coorong to ensure the ongoing health of the internationally renowned RAMSAR site.

The Basin Plan is a coordinated approach to water management across the Murray–Darling Basin's four states (South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland) and the Australian Capital Territory. 

Water and the River Murray Minister Ian Hunter had stated that South Australia would not agree to any changes to the Basin Plan nor make any movement on sustainable diversion limits until it is clear that the negotiated extra 450GL is delivered on time and in full.

Quotes attributable to Water and the River Murray Minister Ian Hunter

We cannot operate in good faith with Basin Ministers who are not willing to work for the benefit of all Basin states.

The 450GL is not an optional part of the Basin Plan. It was agreed to in 2012 and we have to deliver it.

Ernst and Young has provided a flexible framework that maps out a range of ways the 450 can be delivered in a socio-economically neutral or beneficial way

I have an expectation that all jurisdictions will begin a pilot programme for efficiency measures sooner rather than later.

In South Australia our pilot programme is showing that the investment in efficiency measures not only returns water to the river but also develops the industry and is enabling industry growth. I would welcome any of my colleagues to come to South Australia and see these projects and the positive community and industry outcomes firsthand.

I am pleased to see some movement on compliance. It is promising to see that all the jurisdictions seem to be showing a renewed commitment to compliance and agreeing to a more consistent way of collecting and reporting on data across the Basin.