This week the Select Committee on the Murray-Darling Basin has held public hearings in Goolwa and Renmark in South Australia. The Inquiry’s mandate is to report on the social, economic and environmental impacts of the Murray Darling Basin Plan on Regional Communities.
One submission was made by Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN). The interest group raise several concerns.
1. Cultural Flows
MLDRIN submitted the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (the Plan) currently, although recognising cultural flows, fails to identify a mechanism for delivering on cultural interests. To this extent, MLDRIN submitted Indigenous communities are unable to access their rights to water and this is having a detrimental effect on their ‘spiritual, cultural, environmental, social and economic’ development and empowerment. MLDRIN proposes the Basin Plan must deliver positive cultural outcomes alongside the triple bottom line.
2. The legacy of dispossession
Indigenous interest groups are at an inherent disadvantage when attempting to participate in water allocation framework established under the Plan. As original custodians, forcibly removed from their lands, Indigenous peoples have been systematically excluded from enjoying natural resources. The failure to account for this dispossession can encourage ongoing disadvantage within Indigenous communities as they are increasingly excluded from the water market as they do not have the financial capacity to engage with water trading. Strategic Indigenous Reserves, which operate as publically owned consumptive pools only accessible by Indigenous peoples once they have developed the economic capacity to deal with such reserves, have not been adopted within the Plan. This is largely due to the apparent scarcity of water across the Basin as well as the extent of Indigenous dispossession of land.
Another submission was delivered by the National Irrigators’ Council (NIC). The NIC is concerned the Plan places too much emphasis on the environmental recovery of the Basin at the expense of industry and communities. The NIC perceive in the delivery of the Plan there has been an inequitable delivery of the triple bottom line, with the environment taking precedence over social and economic outcomes. The NIC is pleased with the passing of the Water Amendment Act 2015 (Cth) as it limits the capacity of the Commonwealth, as the environmental water holder, to 1 500 gigalitres.
The progress of the inquiry can be followed here.
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