Lessons in Sustainability from the Murray–Darling Basin
Edited by John Quiggin, Thilak Mallawaarachchi and Sarah Chambers
In early 2010, the Risk and Sustainable Management Group of The University of Queensland began planning a workshop with the title ‘Water policy in the Murray–Darling Basin: Have we finally got it right?’ to be held in October of that year. The title of the workshop reflected, on the one hand, the long history of disappointment that has characterised attempts to reform water policy in Australia and, on the other hand, the thenprevalent optimism that the process of producing a Murray–Darling Basin Plan, as required under the Water Act 2007, could generate a sustainable and broadly acceptable solution. A Draft Plan was expected to be released in the first half of 2010, after which a process of analysis and consultation would allow for refinements and adjustments before the Plan commenced operation in 2011. The workshop was envisaged as taking place at a time when the Draft Plan could be assessed, and while there was still time to influence the process leading to the Final Plan. As it turned out, the course of events was very different. The release of the Plan was delayed by the federal election held in August 2010, and even then no Draft Plan appeared. Instead, on 8 October 2010, the Murray– Darling Basin Authority released a Guide to the Proposed Basin Plan, which was reported as proposing cuts of 30 per cent in the allocation of water to irrigators. The reaction was rapid and furious. Copies of the Guide were burnt in public...