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Murray–Darling Basin Authority Communique – March 2023

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority met on 31 March 2023 on Ngunnawal Country (Canberra). All members were present.

Published: 31 March 2023

The Authority discussed the ongoing consequences of recent floods through the Basin, in particular the tragic fish deaths this month in the Darling (Baaka) River at Menindee. They expressed their deep concern about the impact on local communities and the river environment and commended the coordinated efforts of water management agencies and the New South Wales Police to address community concerns, to ensure potable water supply and to effectively remove a great many dead fish from the river. 

Members noted the MDBA has supported the New South Wales Government in their primary role in the response underway at Menindee and it is supporting the ongoing management of the situation and aiding scientific monitoring at the site. Members also noted the independent review to be conducted by the state of New South Wales. 

Executive Director of River Management, Andrew Reynolds updated the Authority on current water resource availability, with the whole-of-Basin water in storage remaining high overall for mid-autumn, at 89% capacity. Key water management activities in the River Murray System were also discussed, including early work to progress the next phase of the Barmah–Millewa Program, and steps underway to scope the review of recent flooding in the River Murray commissioned by the Ministerial Council at its February meeting. 

MDBA Executive Director of the Basin Plan, Tim Goodes provided an update on the development of a First Nations engagement approach for the Basin Plan Review. The Authority noted that the project is in the design phase and looked forward to considering a recommended approach in an upcoming meeting.

The Authority approved the 2021–22 Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) Accounts – Registers of Take and Interim Registers of Take and agreed to provide these to the Inspector-General of Water Compliance (IGWC). The Authority noted areas of underuse and potential exceedance against the Basin Plan SDL. The Authority will be discussing a number of issues with the IGWC as part of his compliance consideration and expects to make further comment once the IGWC has completed his responsibilities.

The Authority was also provided with an update on the development of the MDBA Outlook and the Evaluation Design Panel. Work will continue in both these areas.

Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water Deputy Secretary, Ms Lyn O’Connell provided an update on the Australian Government’s tender that is now open for strategic water purchase for 44.3 gigalitres per year (GL/y), the recent UN 2023 Water Conference and the Government’s intent around greater First Nations involvement in water policy.

The next Authority meeting will be held in Canberra on 10 May 2023

Sir Angus Houston (Chair) 

Professor Stuart Bunn 

Dr Jane Doolan 

Ms Roseanne Healy 

Ms Susan Madden 

Mr Rene Woods 

Mr Andrew McConville (Chief Executive) 

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