MDBA urged to act on Ken Mathews report

13 Sep

Time for a ‘systemic fix’ – MDBA urged to act on Ken Mathews report

The Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) has welcomed the release of Ken Mathew’s damning report into water theft and corruption in New South Wales and called on the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to heed key recommendations regarding compliance and water resource planning.

The report is damning in its assessment of the compliance and enforcement regime in NSW and of key government departments, where a culture of “expedience” has operated “at the expense of due and proper process.”

‘It is important to understand that the rogue actions and breaches of due process revealed in the program have real and devastating impacts on Country and on Aboriginal people,’ said MLDRIN Chair and Nari Nari man Rene Woods.

‘Ken Mathews has upheld the concerns and many of the allegations raised in the Four Corners report. Traditional Owners along the Baarka or Darling River, who have watched their sacred waterways run dry in recent years, deserve answers to their questions: how has water theft and extraction of environmental flows been allowed to occur? Who is responsible and how will all governments act to restore faith in water management?’ Rene Woods said.

‘As we speak, Aboriginal people are being asked to participate in the development of new water resource plans across the Basin, including in the Barwon-Darling system. Ken Mathews’ report raises a critical question: how can we have any confidence that these plans will protect our Country and our cultural values?’

Premiers and PM asked key questions

MLDRIN has written to all Premiers in the Southern Basin states and the Prime Minister highlighting the need to reschedule the development and accreditation of water resource plans, where necessary, while compliance issues are investigated and properly understood. In particular, we have asked that Basin States and the Commonwealth do not accredit water resource plans until there has been:

  • proper investigation of illegal take to ensure that Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDLs) can operate effectively and
  • implementation of measures to protect environmental water to make sure agreed volumes of water are being delivered to key ecological and cultural assets.

MDBA can show leadership

Ken Mathews’ report highlights an important leadership role for the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) in addressing these questions and concerns. MLDRIN urges the MDBA to implement key recommendations from Ken Mathews’ report, which advise the Authority to:

  • ‘take into account proposed compliance and enforcement arrangements before it approves or accredits any draft Water Resource Plan under the Basin Plan,’ and to
  • ‘Announce now that the new Water Resource Plans will be assessed by the MDBA and Commonwealth against the criterion of the adequacy of the arrangements proposed for protecting environmental flows and entitlements.’

‘We look forward to working with all jurisdictions and agencies to ensure that Aboriginal people can continue to participate in water reform and Basin Plan implementation in good faith,’ Rene Woods said.

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