First Nations Kick off Assessment of NSW Water Plans

First Nations organisations MLDRIN and NBAN will kick off a thorough and independent assessment of all NSW Water Resource Plans (WRPs) today, fulfilling a key regulatory role spelt out in the Basin Plan.

In June, the NSW Government submitted the last of 22 WRPs that it is required to prepare under the Murray Darling Basin Plan. The plans were submitted nearly a year past their due-date and following controversial threats by NSW Ministers to pull out of the Basin Plan.

The Basin Plan requires the MDBA to seek advice from MLDRIN and NBAN to check if requirements for Indigenous consultation have been met. Today, MLDRIN will convene Delegates from the Wiradjuri, Nari Nari, Yitta Yitta and Ngyampaa Nations to undertake an assessment of the WRP for the Lachlan River catchment. A schedule of assessments for other plans will follow in coming months.

Plans eagerly awaited

“First Nations people across NSW have waited eagerly for these WRPs to be finalised. We want to see better recognition of our water rights and strengthened protection for cultural values along our sacred rivers,” said Nari Nari man and Chair of MLDRIN Rene Woods.

“Our Organisations will now commence a thorough assessment of all NSW plans against the Basin Plan requirements and international best practice models for engagement with First Nations people,” Rene Woods said.

Rigorous assessment

“Our assessment will be independent, rigorous and unimpeded,” said Murrawarri man and Chair of NBAN Fred Hooper.

“We have a duty to ensure that First Nations people’s rights and interests are respected through the water resource planning process. If plans do not stack up against the rules in the Basin Plan, we will provide frank and detailed advice to the MDBA and the Federal Water Minister outlining the deficiencies,” Fred Hooper said.

“With the dangers and uncertainties of Covid-19 ongoing, assessments will be carefully planned to avoid risks to our members. We cannot rush this critical review to meet political pressures or arbitrary deadlines,” Fred Hooper said.

Key facts:

  • NSW has submitted 22 Water Resource Plans. These WRPs are the key vehicle for implementing rules and targets set in the Basin Plan, including the Sustainable Diversion Limit
  • Chapter 10, Part 14 of the Basin Plan includes detailed rules for how States must engage with and ‘have regard to’ the views of First Nations
  • A note in the Basin Plan at Chapter 10, Part 14 also states that the MDBA must consult with peak First Nations organisations to determine if the requirements for Indigenous consultation have been met.
  • MLDRIN and NBAN will submit advice on the plans directly to the Board of the Murray Darling Basin Authority. The advice will be provided in full, as part of any recommendations from the MDBA to the Federal Water Minister.
  • MLDRIN and NBAN have previously completed assessments of Water Resource Plans for Victorian South Australia, the ACT and Queensland.

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