NSW changes course of Basin Plan and puts regional communities first

Media release | 18 December 2019

NSW has today delivered an overhaul of the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP), for the first time since its inception, to meet the current needs of Basin communities.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said NSW has stood firm on demands for changes to the MDBP and significant progress has been made at today’s meeting of Basin Ministers in Brisbane.

“Today we have made huge progress to changing the MDBP to reflect the needs of regional communities across the State,” Mr Barilaro said.

“NSW will not deliver the Water Resource Plans, as it does not meet the expectations of our communities, and NSW will not contribute to the additional 450GL in water recovery as we simply have no water left to give.

“NSW has done all the heavy lifting when it comes to delivering the Basin Plan and then to expect our communities to contribute to the additional 450GL at a time when we are experiencing the worst drought in living memory is ludicrous.

“NSW has stood firm and these changes are a big step forward. However, make no mistake, our threats to walk away from the Plan are not empty and NSW will hold the Commonwealth and Basin States to account to make sure these changes are carried out and our communities given a fair go.”

Minister for Water Melinda Pavey said for too long the Federal Government and South Australia ignored the needs of regional NSW communities who are experiencing the worst drought in recorded history.

“I made it very clear today that NSW will not deliver the Water Resource Plans and NSW will not contribute to the additional 450GL in water recovery targets,” Mrs Pavey said.

“We have fought for the Plan to be changed and it is finally happening. NSW called for South Australia to turn on its Desalination Plant, which they said would never happen, but it is now on.

“NSW is in the grips of the worst drought on record and our communities have been crying out for change for a long time.

“Today we are seeing that change, however we still have a way to go, and we will not stop fighting for those basin communities.”

NSW has successfully fought for and delivered:

  • A reassessment of the deliverability of the Sustainable Diversion Limit projects and their contribution of 605GL – this could mean a delay in the delivery of this water, which would lead to legislative changes to the Plan; and
  • Changes to the Terms of Reference for a review into the Lower Lakes. This will examine whether it was an estuarine or fresh water system and will include a review of the allegations made in Professor Gell’s peer-reviewed paper.

NSW has made it clear to all Basin states that:

  • NSW will not contribute to the additional 450GL in water recovery targets;
  • NSW will continue to pursue changes that would see transmission losses be classified as environmental water across the basin; and
  • NSW cannot submit water resource plans and will negotiate a new deadline once the drought breaks.