The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (the MDBA) is a corporate Commonwealth entity established under the Commonwealth Water Act 2007 (the Water Act) link.
The governance details are set out in the Water Act, which established a cooperative arrangement for managing water resources in the Murray–Darling Basin (see Figure 3.1).
The MDBA’s governance arrangements reflect its two distinct functions:
overseeing the implementation of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, which requires it to make decisions and recommendations
operating the River Murray and joint programs, which is guided by decision-making from the Basin governments.
The MDBA provides advice and support to the other entities in the governance framework shown in Figure 3.1.
Australian Government water minister
The MDBA reports to the Australian Government minister responsible for water who from 6 February 2020, was the Hon. Keith Pitt.
The Australian Government Minister responsible for water is the Chair of the Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council (the Ministerial Council) and may, in the circumstances contemplated by the Water Act, direct the MDBA on how it performs its functions.
Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council
The MDBA is accountable to the Ministerial Council for matters under the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement. The Council met three times in 2019–20.
The Ministerial Council has policy and decision-making roles for:
state water shares
the funding and delivery of natural resource management programs
issues relating to critical human needs as provided for in the Water Act.
It is made up of ministers responsible for water from each Basin jurisdiction. As at 30 June 2020, members were:
Australian Government minister responsible for water—the Hon. Keith Pitt (Chair)
New South Wales minister— the Hon. Melinda Pavey MP
Victorian minister—the Hon. Lisa Neville MP
Queensland minister— the Hon. Dr Anthony Lynham MP
South Australian minister— the Hon. David Speirs MP
Australian Capital Territory minister— Mr Mick Gentleman MLA.
The Basin Officials Committee (BOC) advises the Ministerial Council in relation to major policy issues, may give effect to the decisions of the Ministerial Council and otherwise exercises responsibility for high-level decision-making. The BOC has a significant role in the approval of the objectives and outcomes that guide the MDBA’s performance of river operations functions and may direct and advise the MDBA in relation to functions under the Murray–Darling Agreement and implementation of the Basin Plan.
Members represent each of the six Basin governments. The BOC met five times in 2019–20.
As at 30 June 2020, members were:
Australian Government—Matt Cahill (Chair) and Mary Colreavy (deputy Chair)
New South Wales—Jim Bentley
South Australia—Ben Bruce
Australian Capital Territory—Erin Brady.
Improvements in governance arrangements are being implemented as a result of an independent review of joint governance arrangements initiated by the BOC in accordance with the Murray–Darling Basin Compliance Compact 2018. The review was finalised by Mr Greg Claydon in March 2019. The joint governments’ response to the review and recommended improvements were agreed to by the BOC and endorsed by the Ministerial Council in December 2019.
The improvements are intended to enable the BOC to become more efficient, effective and strategically focused. Structural changes to the committees that support the work of the BOC, and measures to improve communication and engagement have been agreed to. The changes promote joint Basin stewardship. More information about the improvements to BOC governance arrangements is on the MDBA website Murray-Darling Basin Authority | (mdba.gov.au).
The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (the Authority) provides advice and support on Basin-wide strategy, policy and planning. It collaborates with government and community groups to secure Basin water resources.
The Murray–Darling Basin Authority comprises a part-time Chair, full-time Chief Executive, and five part-time members, supported by an Australian Government agency to undertake its functions. On 3 October 2019, the Water Amendment (Indigenous Authority Member) Act 2019 came into effect, amending the Water Act to include membership of an Indigenous person in the Authority.
A quorum for meetings and decision-making requires four members.
Members are appointed under a process set out in the 2008 Intergovernmental Agreement on Murray–Darling Basin Reform and the Water Act. The appointment process was updated during the year and agreed to by the Ministerial Council in January 2020. The roles and responsibilities are outlined in Water Act and accountability and performance are measured by the outcomes of the Basin Plan with the Audit Committee and the Independent Assurance Committee providing additional assurance.
As at 30 June 2020, the members were:
A/g Chair—Professor Stuart Bunn
Chief Executive—Phillip Glyde
members—Joanna Hewitt AO, Susan Madden.
There were three vacant member positions. The members met 13 times in 2019–20. More information about the Murray–Darling Basin Authority, including communiques from meetings and additional information on members, is on the MDBA website Murray-Darling Basin Authority | (mdba.gov.au).
Professor Stuart Bunn
Appointed to the Murray–Darling Basin Authority in May 2018 as a non-executive member and serving as acting Chair since January 2020; 13 meetings attended
Stuart is the Director of the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University in Brisbane. He has a PhD in Zoology from the University of Western Australia. His major research interests are in the ecology of river and wetland systems, with a particular focus on the science that underpins river management.
Stuart has extensive experience working with international and Australian Government agencies and industry on water resource management issues. He has previously served as an Australian National Water Commissioner, the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Panel for the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum and as a Director of Land and Water Australia. He is a member of the International Planning Committee for the Sustainable Water Future Programme and was recently appointed as a member of the Earth Commission, hosted by Future Earth.
Joined the Murray–Darling Basin Authority as Chief Executive on 4 January 2016 and is an executive member; 12 meetings attended
A member of the Australian Public Service since 1980, Phillip has worked in natural resource management, and industry and environmental policies in a number of Australian Government departments. He has overseas experience from his work with the Environmental Directorate of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, and the Cabinet Office and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom.
Phillip has an honours degree in Natural Resource Management from the University of New England and a Bachelor of Economics from the Australian National University.
Joanna Hewitt AO
Appointed to the Murray–Darling Basin Authority in May 2018 and served as acting Chair from January to December 2019; 13 meetings attended
Joanna has worked at senior levels of the Australian Public Service in the areas of agriculture, foreign and trade policy, and for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Agricultural Directorate. She has served on corporate, public sector and non-governmental boards and has consulted internationally.
She is Chair of the Scientific Advisory Group of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
Joanna has a Bachelor of Economics (First Class Honours) and an honorary doctorate in economics from the University of Western Australia and a Master of Science (Economics) from the London School of Economics.
Appointed to Murray–Darling Basin Authority in March 2016 as a non-executive member; 13 meetings attended
Susan is Principal Economist in the Natural Resources and Agriculture team for international consulting firm GHD. She brings to the Authority skills, experience and networks gained from a background in family farming and years of working in the agricultural and natural resource management areas.
For the past three years, Susan has been Chair of the Central West Local Land Services Board. She also sits on the Local Land Services Board of Chairs.
Susan has a Bachelor of Agriculture and Economics (First Class Honours) from the University of Sydney.
The MDBA receives advice from specialist independent committees to ensure it makes robust and defensible decisions regarding environmental, social, cultural and economic considerations.
Advisory Committee on Social, Economic and Environmental Sciences
The Advisory Committee on Social, Economic and Environmental Sciences (ACSEES) gives the MDBA independent, strategic advice based on science and knowledge.
The committee was established under s. 203 of the Water Act.
As at 30 June 2020, members were:
Professor Rob Vertessy (Chair)
Professor Michael Stewardson
Professor Poh-Ling Tan*
Professor Sue Jackson
Professor Roger Stone
Professor Nick Bond
Dr Neil Byron
Professor Stuart Bunn (observer to ACSEES)
Professor Steve Hatfield-Dodds (technical adviser to ACSEES).
The Basin Community Committee (BCC) gives a community perspective on water resource, environmental, cultural and socioeconomic matters. They are key local contacts for the MDBA.
The MDBA calls for nominees when new members are needed and prepares a shortlist for approval by the Ministerial Council.
At 30 June 2020, members and the areas they represent were:
Phil Duncan (Chair)—Gwydir
Emily Jenke—Lower Lakes
Susan Madden (Authority member)—Macquarie
Samantha O’Toole—Border Rivers
Sue Rudd—Sunraysia/lower Darling
David Thurley—upper Murray
Sam Coulton—Border Rivers
Rachel Kelly—mid Murray/Murrumbidgee.
Phil Duncan was appointed on 1 January 2020, taking over from previous Chair, Rory Treweeke. Mr Duncan is a Gomeroi man from Moree in New South Wales and is the first Aboriginal person to hold the position of BCC Chair.
The committee met five times in 2019–20.
More information about committee members and the minutes of BCC meetings is on the MDBA website (link).
Compliance Independent Assurance Committee
The Independence Assurance Committee (IAC) provides expert advice on the design, implementation and adequacy of the MDBA’s Basin Plan Compliance program. Established in 2018 under s. 203 of the Water Act, the IAC consists of four independent experts with knowledge across a range of relevant areas to regulatory strategy and compliance capability.
At 30 June 2020, members were:
Allan Holmes (Chair)
More information about the IAC is on the MDBA website (link).
MDBA organisational structure
The MDBA carries out its work through five divisions led by Chief Executive, Phillip Glyde (see Figure 3.2). The heads of each division form the Executive team, which is supported by committees that advise the Executive on specific areas:
Information Management and Technology Committee
Health and Safety Committee
Employee Consultative Committee
The work of these committees is covered in more detail in the relevant sections of this report and on the MDBA website (link).
MDBA organisational divisions
Science, Knowledge and Engagement
Ensures best-practice science and robust evaluation outcomes of the Basin Plan
Plays a central role in enhancing collaborative relationships with Basin state governments and building trust with community partners
Works with state partners to lead the integration and delivery of environmental and operational water needs and manage all areas of river operations
Coordinates MDBA support for the sustainable diversion limit adjustment projects being delivered by the Basin states
Water Resource Planning and Accounting
Works with state partners to complete water resource plans and manage the system of accounts that keeps track of how much water is taken each year from the Basin’s rivers, valleys and groundwater systems
Corporate Strategy and Services
Runs the MDBA’s business, providing strategic and support services in financial management; procurement and planning; people and culture; legal, parliamentary and secretariat services; governance, risk and audit; and management of data and information
Executive Director, Science, Knowledge and Engagement
Joined the MDBA leadership team in 2016
Vicki has over 20 years of practical experience in policy and applied science, focused on Australian’s natural resources, agricultural industries, biosecurity and regional development. Before joining the MDBA, Vicki held technical and leadership roles in the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, private sector consulting businesses and the Australian Government agricultural department. In these roles, she led cross-sectoral research in areas including soils, climate change, rural policy, agricultural extension, digital innovations, and primary industry health and safety. She has also delivered high-profile policy reviews and undertaken extensive stakeholder engagement.
Vicki has a Bachelor of Applied Science from the Australian National University.
Executive Director, River Management
Joined the MDBA leadership team in 2013
Andrew has more than 26 years of experience in the water industry, managing major water supply infrastructure. Before joining the MDBA, Andrew held various roles with Goulburn–Murray Water. His work there included managing the headworks business responsible for 16 large dams and associated infrastructure, delivering several major dam safety upgrades, and leading the business’s engineering and scientific resources.
Andrew has a Bachelor of Engineering (Agricultural) (Hons) from the University of Melbourne. He is the current chairman of the Australian National Committee on Large Dams.
Executive Director, Water Resource Planning and Accounting
Joined the MDBA leadership team on 15 June 2020
Before commencing in this role, Tim was the Deputy Chief Executive of the Department of Primary Industries and Regions for the South Australian Government. He was responsible for agriculture, food and wine, regional development, major program delivery and corporate services.
From 2009–17, Tim was the Deputy Chief Executive of the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources in South Australia. In that role, he was responsible for the policy and strategy development of the department, including serving as the Basin Official for South Australia, overseeing the implementation of the Basin Plan and other major water projects.
Tim came to natural resources management following 12 years in the Justice portfolio, in Courts and the Attorney-General’s Department, including time as the Sheriff of South Australia, and three years as an Executive Director in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. He has a degree in Social Administration and a Masters in Public Policy and Administration.
Chief Operating Officer, Corporate Strategy and Services
Joined the MDBA leadership team in 2017
Annette has worked in a broad range of corporate areas since starting her public service career in 1986. These include corporate and business management, farm surveys, data, social research, finance, property, and major projects and procurements.
From 2002 to 2012, Annette was Corporate Manager for the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences. She then joined the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions where she worked as National Manager, People from 2012 to 2015. In 2015 Annette moved to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, where she was responsible for the department’s national property interests and a range of other national business functions.