Basin politics heat up

A new Chairman has been appointed by Australia’s federal water minister Tony Burke to head the besieged Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Mr Craig Knowles, a former minister in the New South Wales government, stepped into the position on 1 February.  He is taking over from Mike Taylor who tendered his resignation in December (see my 10 December blog).

Craig Knowles served in the New South Wales government for 15 years, and has had ministerial responsibility for infrastructure and planning and natural resources, among other things. He has also been a member of the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council.

Knowles has said, “I am committed to a balanced approach — a lot of the debate and anger was really about a failure to get the balance right (in the Basin Plan) and anyone who knows my background knows that I work to achieve a balance, that is my approach.”

Knowles has reportedly offered the commitment that ‘everything’ in the plan will be revisited.  What this means we shall have to wait and see.

Knowles’s has created a new ‘delivery group’ and an ‘advisory committee’ to implement basin water reform, bringing in new faces with experience across the MDB. These include former South Australia state water Minister Karlene Maywald, and former senior water bureaucrats Jennifer Westacott and Peter Cosier (both of whom ran Knowles’ former NSW state water department), and Lindsay Neilsen (who ran the Victorian state water department).

With Knowles appointment, Federal water Minister Burke clearly intends to signal to all stakeholders that a political solution to the Murray-Darling Basin planning impasse will be found.  Exactly how this happens is yet to be seen.

And where this leaves the governance position of the existing Authority Board Members remains equally unclear.

More on the new Murray-Darling Basin Planning ‘realpolitik’ as the story unfolds.

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