We have another one of the Dr Dave videos for you today, this one on those tiny marsupials, squirrel gliders. If you’re interested in seeing these little guys in action, you definitely want to see this!
The other day we asked our Chair, Craig Knowles, to get in front of the camera and give everyone a bit of an introduction to the draft plan. This is now up on YouTube. Craig gives a 6-minute overview of the draft, so it’s a good place to start getting your head around what’s in it. He’s also written a blog post.
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[Title card: intro music, MDBA logo, www.mdba.gov.au]
Craig Knowles, MDBA Chair: Well today represents the starting point of the 20-week public exhibition period for the draft Basin Plan. I commend it to you and would urge you to take the time to look at all the documents – there are a lot of them – and make sure that you understand what we’re trying to achieve.
In simple terms, that’s a healthy working Basin. A sensible balance between a healthy environment underpinning strong communities and making sure the economies which spring out of the Basin are vibrant and can continue to grow.
We want to make sure that people understand that we think the health of the Basin is achieved by more than just a volume of water – it’s more than just a number. There are two points about that, First of all, everyone understands – you only have to pick up any newspaper – that there is no number that’s going to be agreed upon by the various competing interest groups. The states all have different views and some of the key stakeholder groups – conservationists, irrigators, farmers – all have different points of view as well. They’re all valid, everyone’s claims has right on their side but in the end it’s like a tug-of-war – they’re all pulling against each other and we get absolutely nowhere. It’s why, in fact, John Howard back in 2007 acknowledged the fact that the way we’ve managed the Murray-Darling Basin system for the last couple of hundred years has well and truly reached its use-by date. And this plan that came out of that statement is about the future and not the past.
And so in that sense, it’s a starting point. It’s a starting point to move away from a fixation about a number and into a process of adaptive management. What’s adaptive management? Well, it’s the application of common sense, incorporating good local knowledge and bringing a range of tools to the system to better manage the system for all of its values: social, economic and environmental. Things like infrastructure, new knowledge about better ways of building environmental works and measures – all of those sorts of things need to be brought into play. And we’ve given time for that to happen. I stress that the numbers, whatever they end up (and we’re making the point that our numbers are a starting point, they’re not the end of a conversation), but the numbers don’t actually clock in until 2019 and there’s lots of checkpoints along the way to see how we’re going to make sure we can get it right. Most importantly, there’s a halfway point review hardwired into the Plan at 2015 that will check on all of the impacts – not just environmental but the social and economic impacts – and make sure that we’re doing as well as we might.
We’ve got a robust starting point. The scientists tell me that I can start the journey and I’m very grateful for that. There’s a mountain of science here – and you can inspect it all on the internet and have a look at all the background information – but I’m comforted to know that I can start in 2011 on a journey towards 2019 with a robust starting point.
In getting there, it will involve taking some water out of production in some valleys that are still over-allocated and sending it across the ledger as water for the environment. I don’t necessarily see that as a competing agenda; I see it, potentially, as an opportunity. The opportunity is how we go about acquiring that water for the transition. We make the point in our documentation that we have a bias towards infrastructure – we want to see investment in communities and we want to make sure that we value every drop of water, whether it’s used for productive purposes or for the environment. And I was really delighted to see, just last week in the Parliament of Australia, the Commonwealth Minister reinforced that point as well. How the government goes about acquiring the volume of water through to 2019 will have a real impact on whether the socio-economic impacts are greater than they need to be or whether there are economic opportunities as a result of investment.
And so, take the time to read the documents and understand that this journey is an opportunity for you to have your say. Not just in the next 20 weeks but you’ll see when you have a read that we’ve hardwired in an opportunity for local communities to really get involved in the ongoing management of their part of the system. I think that’s really important. I’ve been talking about localism since the day I got into the job and we’ve built it into the Plan because I fundamentally believe that people on the ground do have a very strong understanding of how to manage their systems and keep them in a strong state for all values.
And, please take the time to have your say and to join in. This doesn’t have to be a fight. It should be about aspiring to make sure that this precious resource, in a very dry continent, the water that’s available to us is used for its best uses most efficiently and making sure that we make every drop count.
[For more information:
We’ve put up a video on YouTube of the Chair, Craig Knowles, explaining our current thinking on developing the draft Basin Plan. He also talks about the place localism and adaptive management have in the Basin Plan process. You may want to grab a cup of tea and get comfortable as the video is 15 minutes long.
A transcript of the video is also available.
Leave us a comment and let us know what you think. Do you want to see more videos like this from us?