Indigenous groups demand greater input on Murray-Darling Basin plan

Posted 7 February 2017
Aerial view: The Darling River
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has extended the deadline for submissions on proposed Basin Plan amendments following requests from members of the community for more time

“Stakeholders asked for the extension so that they could have more time to analyse our reports and make suggestions on the changes,” said MDBA Chief Executive Phillip Glyde.

“We are considering submissions as they are received, so the extension should not affect the proposed amendment process timeframe.”

The proposed changes could see a 70GL reduction to the northern basin water recovery target, and a decrease in three groundwater area recovery targets.

The extension for submissions comes amid criticism from Indigenous groups around the prospect of increased groundwater extraction.

The Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations held workshops in January for traditional owners to share their views, and MLDRIN Executive Officer Will Mooney said a range of concerns had been raised. 

“Our understanding is that the increase is largely driven by a demand for water to supply mining in western NSW,” Mooney reportedly told the ABC.

“There are certainly some concerns; the concerns range from the consultation process itself. Some traditional owners have felt they haven't had the opportunity to adequately understand the changes and also to consult with their broader community.

“There are also certainly concerns about the impact of increasing groundwater extraction from that area, particularly when the traditional owners aren't seeing an equal share of the benefit of that extraction.”

One Barkindji woman, Sophia Pearce, is reportedly calling for compensation.

“For me the big issue today has been about social justice for my people and for Indigenous people in Australia in terms of mining and taking those natural resources,” she told the ABC

“We feel that if they're going to go and destroy those sacred waterholes or the groundwater that exists to maintain our water spirits, then we should be adequately compensated for the fact that we will no longer have access to country.”

The National Farmers Federation has also been critical of the proposed amendments, launching a #MoreThanFlow campaign.

To have your voice heard, you can make a formal submission to the MDBA online, via email or post until 10 February 2017.