Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville and State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed are both calling for an independent inquiry into allegations of water theft from Murray-Darling Basin rivers in NSW.
Ms Neville is also asking for a ministerial council meeting with all basin ministers to address the serious allegations of water misappropriation.
‘‘The allegations made on the Four Corners program are deeply concerning and urgent action is needed to restore public confidence in the integrity of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan,’’ Ms Neville said.
‘‘With key decisions to be made by the end of the year, a special ministerial council meeting must be convened as soon as practicable in the coming weeks to address and resolve these matters.
‘‘The independent public inquiry would have the ability to compel witnesses to give evidence, with recommendations considered by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council, and then put before COAG.’’
Ms Neville said Victoria did not want the inquiry to stop the projects under way to deliver up to 650Gl of offsets needed to implement the basin plan.
Ms Sheed was not content with the Federal Government’s decision to direct the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to initiate a review of the plan, which would involve a basin-wide compliance probe of the state-based regulations that govern water use, stating the approach was insufficient and inappropriate.
‘‘This is not an independent inquiry,’’ Ms Sheed said.
‘‘It is being undertaken by the very organisation that was supposed to be monitoring the rollout of the plan and has clearly failed to do so.
‘‘I have heard on many occasions that the lobbying power of irrigators in the north with their political representatives has been much greater than those in the south.
‘‘The success of water sharing in the Murray-Darling Basin depends upon proper compliance by all participating states and water user residents.
‘‘It is not good enough for NSW to conduct its own investigation into its own department and it is entirely inappropriate for the MDBA to be appointed to investigate its own deficiencies.’’