26 September 2022

River management flowing in the right direction but scope for improvement

The Inspector-General of Water Compliance (Inspector-General) the Hon. Troy Grant has used his address at the Murray Darling Association conference to reveal the findings from his latest report. He undertook this work after communities in the Murray-Darling Basin (the Basin) brought forward concerns about the how the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) manages its environmental watering deliverables and how the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) runs the River Murray system. Mr Grant heard these concerns as he toured the Basin, and one year after his first address to the Murray Darling Association’s conference, and one year after being appointed to the Inspector-General role, he has delivered his report.

“It became very clear to me there was a lack of trust and confidence in how the MDBA was managing the river, as well as how the CEWH was going about using its environmental water. So as part of my oversight role, I made a commitment to look into these concerns, and my report shows these agencies are performing their functions according to their respective obligations”, said Mr Grant.

Speaking at the conference, Mr Grant said that despite not finding any explicit wrongdoing, he does see opportunities and scope for improvement.

“I know this is not what many were expecting to hear, but as the Inspector-General, I can assure you, based on the evidence before me, this is what I found. My role as Inspector-General of Water Compliance is to provide independent oversight; to ask critical questions about how government agencies are performing their roles; to gather and assess the data and evidence before me; and, to hold agencies to account. Just as I will call out bad actors, actions, and practices if I find them, in equal measure, I will acknowledge the good being done” Mr Grant said.

The report highlights the complexities of water management and notes that each Basin government holds information about rules, entitlements, allocations, and environmental water - there is no single source of information. This is something the Inspector-General has noticed as part of a trend, with states operating under their individual jurisdictional powers.

“This siloed, individual, and narrow-cast lens that Australia’s most precious water resource is seen through is an artefact of federation. It is a by-product and reality of joint state and federal management via both the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Water in the Basin must be seen as an Australian asset and not an asset of an individual state or industry.”

“In the main, what I heard on my initial tour was raw, honest, passionate, and clear. To those who opened their communities and homes to me and took the time to prosecute their case why I should investigate matters further, I thank you.”

To view Mr Grant’s report, visit www.igwc.gov.au/reviews-reports

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