The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is an independent expertise-based statutory agency with the task of preparing and implementing an integrated plan for the sustainable use of the Basin’s water resources, and the operation of the River Murray system and efficiently deliver water to users on behalf of partner governments.
As part of that responsibility, the MDBA oversees the environmental objectives and targets for water-dependent ecosystems as laid out in Chapter 8 of the Basin Plan (2012) – the Environmental Watering Plan (EWP). The EWP outlines the framework for managing planned and held environmental water, methods to identify environmental assets, and principles and methods to be applied when prioritising the application of environmental water.
The MDBA is required to review the effectiveness of EWP every five years. For the first review, the MDBA sought to undertake a thorough review of the program, including an Internal and External examination. In 2019, we were engaged to perform the external review.
The objective of the review was to gather findings on the effectiveness of the EWP in contributing achieving the objectives set out in the EWP and to consolidate recommendations from those findings. The External Review was required to determine how knowledge on best practice in planning and natural resource management had changed since the EWP was last drafted, the perspectives of key stakeholders on how the EWP operates on the ground and the implications of particular clauses for practitioners.
Data gathering for the review involved coordinating and running full day workshops for internal and international experts, stakeholder interviews and surveys, consolidation of project results, and desktop reviews of relevant resources on planning frameworks, natural resource management. This review was made more complex as the EWP sets out many requirements for the MDBA, Basin States and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, several of which link to other clauses both within the EWP, and between the EWP and other chapters of the Basin Plan, which had to be factored in during consolidation.