Water Journal : Water Journal April 2011
interview feature articles 64 APRIL 2011 water will also be using judgement in determining a balanced outcome for the Basin, an outcome that considers all the factors, including feedback from the community. I think there has been a perception that science will provide us with all the answers. Science doesn't give you the answers; science provides one of multiple streams of information on which to base decisions. At the end of the day we will need to use our judgement in developing the Basin Plan, informed by the science but also working collaboratively with the many stakeholders who have an interest in the final outcome. The Guide produced an angry response in various communities and among key stakeholders. Was the process originally adopted flawed and, if so, how? I've said a number of times that the Guide is not a document of which I have a lot of ownership. It's my job to produce the proposed Basin Plan and then the Basin Plan for consideration by the Commonwealth Water Minister. The Guide did create anxiety in rural communities, but since then we've received a lot of feedback about our consultation processes. This information will be used in the lead-up to the release of the proposed Basin Plan and when we undertake the formal consultation for a minimum of 16 weeks on the proposed Basin Plan. Has the reaction to the Guide prejudiced the prospects of agreement being reached on a Basin Plan? Indeed, can there ever really be agreement, or will the Government need to make determination at some point? I don't believe so. I am determined to consult widely in the lead-up to making the Basin Plan and to address the concerns of the various stakeholder groups to the maximum extent possible. There should be no surprises for anyone. Following the consultation period, the Basin Plan will be submitted to the Commonwealth Water Minister (currently the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities). The Minister is responsible for the final decision on adopting the Basin Plan and tabling it in Parliament. Is it inevitable that some regions will have their water allocations reduced? What should be done to help these regions to transition to a lower-allocation environment? The Government has committed to bridging the gap between the current diversion limits and the sustainable diversion limits by water savings from infrastructure improvement and buying entitlements. Given that there is over-allocation in parts of the Basin, it is inevitable that some regions will have less water available for consumptive purposes as entitlements are bought for the environment. There will, however, be a number of transitional arrangements that the Authority and other Government Agencies are continuing to work out to support the implementation of the sustainable diversion limits and other measures in the Plan. The Productivity Commission has been critical of investment in irrigation water efficiency, suggesting that water buy-backs and enhancing the market for water is a more cost-efficient way of reducing water over-allocation. What is your view of the Productivity Commission's comments? This is not a matter that needs to be directly addressed by the Authority. It is up to the Commonwealth Water Minister and the Department implementing the Water for the Future program (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) to consider. Dartmouth Dam and the Mitta Mitta River in Victoria.
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