The latest evaluation report by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority is described as a ‘‘report card’’, but it appears as though some of the ‘‘homework’’ has been lost.
The report is intended to assess the progress during the first five years towards water recovery for the environment.
The report acknowledges that much of the water recovery target has been met, yet the social and economic impacts are hard to quantify.
‘‘Preliminary analysis of the currently available data indicates that the impact of the basin plan on the social and economic conditions in basin communities is likely to be better, and at other times worse, than what was expected five years ago. This will be explored in detail in coming months, and publicly reported in April 2018,’’ the report reads.
‘‘At this early stage of implementation, the scale of environmental improvement is such that the flow-on social and economic benefits are difficult to observe. However, site-specific examples provide some indication of the potential range of positive social and economic outcomes that might be expected in the future.’’
The report is critical of the RMCG report which points to the loss of water to the dairy industry and the MDBA report says the impact of the basin plan on the fortunes of the dairy industry is likely to be ‘‘overstated’’.
No figures are provided to substantiate this allegation.
The report goes on to describe, in glowing terms, how Koodrook is developing a nature-based tourism hub.
The MDBA says the hub is taking advantage of eco-tourism interest and the area around Koodrook has benefited from environmental watering, which has resulted in improved outcomes for fish, plants and river gums.
There is a strong inference that environmental watering is resulting in more tourists, but no direct correlation between the watering and tourism is provided.
In the MDBA’s own words:
‘‘This assessment has not attempted to put an aggregate value on the ecosystem services provided by basin water resources, or to measure the extent to which additional environmental water provided under the basin plan (to date) may have contributed to that value.’’
The report admits it is relying on anecdotal reports of more people turning out to river events, activities and opportunities.
‘‘There is early evidence — mostly qualitative and anecdotal at this stage, and site-specific rather than basin scale — that basin plan environmental water is contributing to the health and wellbeing of basin residents (and visitors) through the positive impact it is having on the condition of rivers and wetlands,’’ it reads.
‘‘On balance it is too early to measure the aggregate impact of basin plan environmental watering on basin tourism.’’
As for recreation, it is much the same.
‘‘It is not possible at this stage to quantify the contribution that environmental watering may have made to improved recreation outcomes in recent years,’’ the report states.