SOUTH Australia were among the jurisdictions to reject an attempt to push back the 2024 deadline for full implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, at a Ministerial Council meeting on Friday last week.
NSW, with the backing of Vic, put forward a motion to extend the 2024 timeline for offset projects based on a recommendation from the Productivity Commission.
SA's Environment and Water Minister David Speirs, along with Qld and ACT, "categorically rejected this last-minute attempt" and "reaffirmed the need to just get on with the delivery of the Plan".
According to a statement from Mr Speirs, the meeting resulted in the priorisitation of infrastructure projects to improve water delivery across the Basin, as part of a post-COVID stimulus response.
The Council requested the Basin Officials Committee find opportunities to invest in those projects as a priority.
"Regional communities across the Basin will play an important role in Australia's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic," Mr Speirs said.
The rejection of NSW's motion to review deadlines led to NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey threatening to pull out of future meetings with the other MDB states.
"I've got to say it was a pretty disappointing meeting," she said.
"We aren't going to be able to meet those timetables and we need federal legislative change, but my counterparts in Qld and SA weren't even prepared to countenance that conversation."
Ms Pavey said Vic Water Minister Lisa Neville agreed that a better way forward for the Basin was needed.
"We are challenged by the timetables that have been put to us because we need to do the community consultations...and we need to assess the impact that is there," Ms Pavey said.
"When the Murray Darling Basin Plan was put forward it was always meant to be an adaptable plan."
Ms Pavey said they did not have a new proposed timeline for the Basin Plan as yet.
"In terms of that new timetable, we need to do some more work on that to identify what it is," she said.
Ms Pavey said it was clear the Plan would be "defunct" by 2024 if timetables were not extended.
"If we walk away, it's not relevant, it doesn't exist," she said.
The most recent Basin Plan report card had the Plan's Sustainable Diversion Limit projects classified as "at risk of delay," with only 1.9 gigalitres recovered of the 450GL target (as of March).
The report stated there was high stakeholder concern with major projects and without implementation of those projects by 2024, more water would need to be recovered.
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