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Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the
Environment who holds responsibility for water in the new Federal
Government has provided comment on the Murray-Darling Basin
Authority's (Authority) draft Constraints
Management Strategy (Strategy). Senator Simon
Birmingham's comments provide assurance that the policy will
not be detrimental to the rights of irrigators affected by the
The Authority developed the draft Strategy in response to the
requests of the Basin Ministers, namely, the Federal water Minister
and the State water ministers for New South Wales, Victoria,
Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory
(Basin States) that the Authority undertake a
study as to the constraints as part of the Basin Plan. The Basin
Plan was adopted by the Federal Minister for Sustainability,
Environment, Water, Population and Communities under the Water
Act 2007 (Cth) in November 2012 and provides a coordinated
approach to water use across the Basin States (Basin
Plan). By constraints, the Strategy is referring to how
the volume and/or timing of regulated water delivery are currently
governed through the river system via river rules, practices and
The Strategy deals with the types of constraints to the delivery
of environmental water which will require examination over the next
10 years and proposes a timetable for phased assessment and
decision-making during this period.
The request by the Basin States to include the Strategy is due
to the recognition of various environmental benefits which would
arise through the delivery of higher flow peaks in the future if
the current rules and operational structures were altered. Although
the Authority has expressly stated that such flow peaks would be
predominately below minor flood levels.
In response to concerns by various irrigator groups that the
draft Strategy adopts language which will bring about changes to
water rights, Senator Birmingham has assured such groups that the
security of their members' water entitlements will not be
changed by the proposed Strategy. He also stated that there will be
no compulsory acquisition of land for easements, rather, it is an
opportunity for the Authority to look at how the rules in the
current system work without risking the reliability of water
However, irrigator groups remain concerned that the Authority is
changing the characteristics of water entitlements against previous
governments' commitments not to do so.
Therefore, whilst the Authority and the Government have publicly
provided these assurances on irrigation rights, irrigators remain
concerned as to how this Strategy will be implemented in the future
and how it will affect their water entitlements.
The draft Strategy prepared by the Authority closes for public
comment on 30 October 2013.
The Holding Redlich Agribusiness & Rural Industries team
will monitor the Authority's proposed Strategy and report on
any developments as they arise.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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