Water ministers Blair, Neville set up expert panel to review the offsets mechanism in the Murray Darling Basin Plan

Niall Blair. Photo: Gareth Gardner 060516GGA15
Niall Blair. Photo: Gareth Gardner 060516GGA15

An expert panel has been established to review the offsets mechanism in the Murray Darling Basin Plan, to make sure the plan delivers real environmental benefits without short-changing Basin communities.

NSW Minister for Regional Water Niall Blair and Victorian Minister for Water Lisa Neville have established the panel, which will give advice on the technical foundations of the Basin Plan’s Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) adjustment mechanism. 

The SDL is the maximum amount of water that can be taken for consumptive use, and the adjustment mechanism allows for the 2750GL recovery target in the Basin Plan to be offset by 650GL through projects that deliver equivalent environmental outcomes with less water. 

Mr Blair said he was working with his cross-border colleague because “communities north and south of the Murray River are facing the same challenges”. 

“To continue to get the best deal possible for NSW under the Basin Plan, we need to keep water where it is needed most: in our regional communities, producing the food and fibre of this great state,” Mr Blair said.

“This is a very experienced panel that will provide governments with an assessment of the adjustment methodology, to enable more informed decision making about environmental benefits and ensure operational matters are fully considered.

“I have been very clear that the Basin Plan can be implemented, but not at all costs.

“Models alone do not deliver outcomes and they don’t make the difficult decisions for us – at the end of the day we need a pragmatic, real-world decision and of course this is informed by models.”

The panel will report to the Ministers in mid-March and members include:

Dr Don Blackmore AM – 40 years of experience in water and natural resources management including a 15-year role as the chief executive of the Murray Darling Basin Commission until his retirement in 2004;

Brett Tucker – broad range of experience in water resource management and agriculture in a career spanning 25 years. He established Blackwatch Consulting, specialising in the provision of strategy, governance and operations advice to government agencies;

Chris Arnott – has worked across the Murray Darling Basin since 1994 and led the development of the first national snapshot of environmental water in the Australian Environmental Water Management Report 2010. He is also the co-founder of Aither, specialising in establishing, implementing and evaluating effective public policy performance frameworks; and

Professor Peter Davies AM – aquatic environmental scientist with 35 years’ experience in aquatic environmental issues nationwide and internationally. He is also director of Freshwater Systems, an independent aquatic environmental consultancy.