MDBA appoints independent compliance panel

Murray Darling Basin Plan independent assurance committee appointed


Farm Online News
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Increased oversight for water use in Murray Darling Basin Plan

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The Murray Darling Basin Authority has appointed an advisory body for compliance and enforcement measures governing water use, following recommendations from last year’s review of the agency’s performance.

The Independent Assurance Committee (IAC) will provide expert advice on the design, implementation and adequacy of the Murray Darling Basin Plan’s compliance regime.

In July, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull directed the MDBA to conduct a compliance review, following allegations from ABC’s Four Corners program of water theft and poor regulation in NSW.

The IAC is comprised of four water resource managers.

Allan Holmes is experienced in water policy, management and regulation in Victoria and South Australia. He also advised the independent panel which produced a review report on compliance in the Basin last year.

Lisa Corbyn has worked on water programs, environmental and natural resources policy, land and program management and regulation in New South Wales and internationally.

Garry Smith is a civil engineer who has worked for Goulburn-Murray Water and Melbourne Water.

Martin Dolan has experience in the development and operation of compliance and regulatory systems in a range of roles at the Commonwealth level.

The MDBA’s compliance report “strongly recommended” state and federal governments focus on the development of good quality water resources plans, which are due by June 30 next year.

The plans are must be approved by the MDBA and should include arrangements to protect environmental flows.

The review also found that the MDBA must be more assertive in performing its compliance and enforcement role across the Basin, and recommended regulation changes to enable the MDBA’s compliance powers to apply consistently in all jurisdictions.

Following the release of the report, Basin state ministers signed a ‘compliance compact’ and committed to strengthen oversight of water use rules.

An online register to report on the handling and progress of compliance matters has been established and a formalised an ‘escalation pathway’ for the agency to follow for alleged breaches.

The IAC will develop an annual work program. For this year the MDBA said it is expected to include advising states on their compliance compact, progressing accreditation of state water resources plans.

The MDBA also highlighted a bone of contention in North West NSW – protection of environmental water as it flows past irrigation pumps.

MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde said the IAC will hold his agency to account in “fully and proactively discharging its compliance roles and responsibilities”.

They will help us to ensure adequate attention is given to high risk areas for Basin Plan implementation, including state and MDBA compliance arrangements and reporting, state water resource plans and improved management of environmental water,” Mr Glyde said.

“We have already established an Office of Compliance within the MDBA, strengthened processes and governance arrangements and increased transparency for managing compliance matters. We are also in the process of further building our compliance and enforcement resourcing.”

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