Drum has some success with the Basin Plan

STANDING BY THE RIVER… Local Member for Nicholls, Damian Drum has his office no more than 100m from the Goulburn River. His advocacy in its management has paid dividends for local farmers. Photo: Steve Hutcheson

The recent announcement by the Minister for Water, Keith Pitt to include changes to the way the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is managed has had a warm welcome across the Victorian rural community in particular.

The announcement proposed there will be no more water buy backs, a long called for splitting up of the Murray Darling Basin Authority, and committing more money to support regional communities which have been adversely affected by the Basin Plan.

Local Member for Nicholls, Damian Drum has long advocated within government that the authority should be split into respectively, the regulatory, the operation and compliance where it currently plays all roles.

“I have been calling for the MDBA to be split up for over a year and now with an independent statutory compliance body to be created, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder will have to take responsibility for their actions, as well as abide by the same rules as our farmers.

“Under this government, ‘buy backs’ are off the table, as are ‘on-farm efficiencies’ – this is what our farmers have been calling for,” said Mr Drum.

Victorian Farmers Federation president, David Jochinke said he was pleased the Minister has committed to no more buy backs but that commitment needs to be legislated.

“I take the minister’s comments at face value but I won’t sleep soundly until I see no more buy backs in an Act of Parliament,” Mr Jochinke said.

Mr Drum said it was time to make the basin plan pay dividends to communities rather than communities pay for the Basin Plan.

“Our government is committing nearly $40 million to improve compliance to provide the assurance communities and governments are seeking while importantly keeping regionally-based staff in our regions,” Mr Drum said.

“A total of $34 million is being allocated by government across those communities hit hard by water recovery to help increase economic activity, diversify economies and create jobs through the extended Murray-Darling Basin Economic Development Program.

“There’s $20 million committed to a Healthy Rivers Program to fund community-driven proposals to improve the health of local rivers and wetlands.

“Four new Indigenous river ranger teams will also be stood up across the Basin.

“Importantly, this package includes a new approach to the delivery of Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment projects and the 450GL to help Basin governments and communities achieve Basin Plan requirements.” said Mr Drum.

The Federal Government will create a new statutory authority to increase water compliance in the Murray-Darling Basin. Existing staff from the MDBA and from the office of the Inspector-General of Murray Darling Basin Water Resources will relocate to a new independent authority operating under Mick Keelty.