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Summary of Meeting Outcomes – GABCC 40 Dubbo, 13-14 June 2018

Update on Draft GAB Strategic Management Plan (SMP)

The consultation draft SMP has been signed off by State & Territory governments and awaits the Federal Minister’s agreement.

The Committee agreed to support the consultation draft SMP as released.  It will also prepare a submission addressing matters not included in the consultation draft SMP, and will canvas stakeholder views on these matters in consultation events.

SMP Governance and Implementation  

The Committee was briefed on the approach of jurisdictions to future SMP governance and implementation.  Whilst the approach is under development, discussion included value being placed on continuing a whole-of-Basin perspective, likely to be achieved through a skills-based committee, although a mix with some representative membership may be considered.  The group would have capacity to draw on additional external expertise.    

The interaction between a whole-of-Basin governance mechanism and Ministers has yet to be decided.  There is discussion of a stakeholder voice to Ministers, independent of governments. 

On implementation, it is anticipated that a ‘heads of agreement’ (or similar) will be developed as a layer below the SMP (the ‘principles document’) and above an Implementation Plan.

The Implementation Plan is likely to include both annual/ recurring activities and singular activities of jurisdictions and GABCC.  This will provide a framework for specific project plans, and may be used as a prospectus for external funding.

Input from GABCC will help to shape the Implementation Plan template, following consideration by GAB Senior Officials Committee.

GAB SMP Consultation process

The Committee organised to review and update all GABCC communication products associated with the SMP, so that they will be ready for release when the consultation draft SMP is released. 

The Committee discussed and agreed respective roles and responsibilities in the consultation process, such as organising and attending meetings, and accurate capturing of stakeholder inputs.   

A lead time of 4-6 weeks is likely to be required between announcement of the SMP release and commencement of the consultation period, to enable adequate notice for meetings.

The Committee initiated a process to improve the online submission form, which will be used for stakeholder input as much as possible.  All inputs will be consolidated and referred to GAB Senior Officials Committee and GABCC before posting on the website.

The GABCC will have an opportunity to comment on the draft SMP (revised form, based on stakeholder consultation) prior to its submission to Ministers, and will discuss adequacy of incorporation of comments received, and potential implementation mechanisms, including processes and frameworks to receive and address stakeholder concerns over the 15-year term of the SMP. 

Options paper on long-term investment in GAB infrastructure

The Committee was briefed on an options paper being developed by jurisdictions on long-term infrastructure investment. This will focus on principles, and will be informed by the SMP consultation process and the GABSI review study, both to be undertaken shortly. 

Members discussed the need to uphold the principle of secure and managed access, to enable joint investment with stakeholders, and the need for information and feedback from stakeholders to precede decisions on a solution.  GABCC would help to provide information and advice into the discussion, to help users to have ownership of the solution.

GAB Information Development projects

The Committee discussed three priority Information Development projects (2018-19):

  • an Information and knowledge gap workshop to develop a 5-year strategy 
  • development of  a GAB Performance ‘Dashboard’ to track degree of achievement of outcomes
  • review of GABSI programs.

GABCC will participate in further development of these projects.

Update on Geological and Bioregional Assessments

Members received a brief update on the Geological and Bioregional Assessments (GBA) program being managed by the AG Department of the Environment and Energy, and GABCC will seek representation on the user panel for the Cooper subregion.  The next meeting will include a briefing on findings of the GBAs for the Namoi and Galilee subregions. 

Update on Lake Eyre Basin Inter-Governmental Agreement Review

The Committee was briefed on the recent consultation period for the LEB IGA Review.  All comments are to be compiled and forwarded to Ministers, to meet the deadline of end June.   A draft report will be available on the LEB and DAWR websites.

GABCC Workplan and Reporting

The Committee discussed new planning and reporting processes to reflect the revised Operating Arrangements agreed in 2017.  An approach will be developed to ensure that the workplan, regular reporting and annual report reflect both the Operating Arrangements and the principles of the draft SMP.   It was agreed to trial a GABCC Newsletter to replace the Communiqué issued following meetings.  

GABCC Working Groups

The meeting noted the work of GABCC working groups for Communication, Website and Information Development, and agreed on standard provisions applying to all its working groups and subcommittees.  

Regional presentations

Time was allocated in the agenda for regionally-based guests to address the Committee about their work and about matters of concern that have relevance both locally and Basin-wide.  Unfortunately changed dates for this meeting precluded a number of interested parties from attending.

A representative of the GAB Protection Group outlined the concerns of this group of water users about possible CSG activities within the Pilliga.  These included: pressure declines; waste disposal; integrity of production capacity and impacts on ‘clean and green’ industry; potential impacts from CSG pipelines and fragmentation of landscape/ habitat if expanded; personal and financial exposure of stakeholders in CSG development; compromise of sustainability and the precautionary principle; and inconsistency in policy and regulation application.

The Committee discussed broader regional and Basin-wide implications of these matters.  Major concerns appear to be water quality and cross-contamination, requiring vigilance and real-time monitoring to ensure compliance.

Members’ Sector & Technical Reports  

Reports were received from community (SA, NSW and Qld), environment, Indigenous, agricultural and local government sectors, and from the Committee’s technical advisor. 

Issues canvassed included a range of stakeholder concerns about: the delayed SMP; third party impacts from new water users; pollution risks; aspects of spring protection outside conservation reserves; water quality (potable); cultural values of springs, bores and some bore drains.

The Queensland GAB Advisory Group is to be enlarged when it is appointed, due shortly.

The Committee was encouraged to hold more meetings in regional locations, noting the benefits that accrue to communities.   

The Technical report included Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) investigation of cultural flows, and improved engagement with Indigenous communities in the Murray Darling Basin.

Observers’ Jurisdictional Reports  

Reports were received from SA, NSW, Queensland and Australian governments. 

The Committee noted progress on GABSI 4 and the Interim Great Artesian Basin Infrastructure Investment Program (IGABIIP); bore surveys; GAB monitoring; work on GAB springs; a new Water Allocation Plan (WAP) for the Far North Prescribed Wells Area (SA) and its requirements for maintenance of water delivery infrastructure; Qld GABORA (Great Artesian Basin and Other Regional Aquifers) plan; recommendation to remake the GAB Water Sharing Plan (NSW);  SA GAB Water Sustainability Partnership (cross-sectoral); and completion of the LEB Aboriginal Map.   

Next Meeting 

The next meeting will be held in Roma Qld on Thu-Fri 11-12 October 2018​