2019 Water sharing plan reviews (Barwon-Darling)
The former Minister for Regional Water requested that the Commission bring forward its statutory review of the Water Sharing Plan for the Barwon-Darling Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2012.
In July 2019, the Commission released a draft report that identified key issues that have particularly impacted on water management under the plan. The significant public interest in the plan and the draft report resulted in the Commission receiving 1,231 submissions, including 121 unique submissions.
In September 2019, the Commission provided a final report to the Minister.
The Commission recognised that the Water Management Act 2000 clearly prioritises protection of the water source and dependent ecosystems, followed by basic landholder rights including native title, and then other extractive uses. However, the current plan has not effectively achieved this prioritisation.
The Commission made 17 recommendations to reverse the current trend towards collapse of the river system so that the river and its dependent species, communities and industries are put on a path towards long term health and resilience.
Professor Fran Sheldon of Griffith University provided a peer-reviewed technical review of the plan to inform the Commission's review.
In September 2019, the NSW Government provided a response to the recommendations in the Commission's final report and the Vertessy Report (Independent assessment of the 2018–19 fish deaths in the Lower Darling). The Government adopted a staged approach to:
- Stage 1: Implement actions to better manage environmental water and the health of fish populations
- Stage 2: Explore options for amending the Menindee Lakes Water Saving Project and improving Aboriginal outcomes
- Stage 3: Make further improvements based on evidence.