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Pause plan to probe

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November 27, 2017

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed has called for the Murray Darling Basin Plan to be paused until allegations of large scale water theft could be investigated.

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed has called for the Murray Darling Basin Plan to be paused until allegations of large scale water theft could be investigated.

Ms Sheed believed confidence in the basin plan was at an all time low following a review that was highly critical of compliance levels in NSW and Queensland.

A fresh round of interstate bickering broke out at the weekend, with South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill announcing his state would launch its own Royal Commission into allegations of water theft.

‘‘The Federal Government needs to take some immediate action and pause the plan while all these reviews into allegations of water theft are sorted out,’’ Ms Sheed said.

Allegations of large scale water theft first surfaced this year after an ABC Four Corners investigation showed a senior NSW water bureaucrat offering confidential information to irrigation lobbyists.

Just how effective a South Australian-based Royal Commission can be into allegations of water theft into other states has been called into question.

‘‘To have a single state running a Royal Commission will eventually be seen as partisan,’’ Ms Sheed said.

‘‘It is quite likely they won’t get access to the people and documents they need.’’

Instead, she wanted a full judicial enquiry into water theft by all Murray-Darling Basin states as well as the commonwealth.

‘‘(Water theft allegations) is creating such a sense of disharmony amongst the states,’’ she said.

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Forum co-chair David McKenzie believed the plan should be paused for two years.

‘‘Almost everyone thinks it is not working properly,’’ Mr McKenzie said.

He saidthe several reviews, the South Australian Royal Commission and calls for judicial inquiries showed the basin plan’s implementation was ‘‘in almost complete disarray’’.

‘‘If the public think that it’s not got credibility, then it is a real problem for everyone,’’ he said.

The release of the Murray-Darling Basin Water Compliance Review on the weekend highlighted problems of weak compliance and a lack of transparency across the system.

Although Victoria was not free from criticism in the review, it did state there was a strong culture of compliance when compared to NSW and Queensland.

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