Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission & the Law-Science Linkage

Part 4: The Basin Plan & Ecologically Sustainable Development –

An Achievable Long-term Solution or an Illusory Bargain? (Posted 08 April 2019)

TAGS: Water Act 2007 (Cth); MDB Plan; MDB Royal Commission; MDB Authority; Basin Plan; SDL; ESLT; ESD; Sustainable Solutions; community concerns; Nick James; Multi-Objective Analysis

1.0    The following statement by a regional community leader in the Murray-Darling Basin was made following the release of the Final Report of the Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission in January 2019:

We're not looking for a short-term fix.

We're not looking for a good rain or some environmental water

to come on the market. That's just a band aid to fix cancer.

We're looking for long-term solutions to make it sustainable for the next generations."

2.0    The statement captures community “interests” or (“needs and “concerns”) that needs to be resolved if conflict over Basin Plan outcomes is to be resolved.

3.0    This article reviews key issues – and outlines problem-solving solutions - for achieving long-term sustainable solutions in the context of the legal obligation under the Federal Water Act 2007: To take ESD into account in developing the Basin Plan.



Part 3. The Precautionary Principle, Procedural Fairness and the

and the Public Interest

TAGS: MDB Plan; MDB Royal Commission; risk analysis; concern assessment; procedural fairness; public interest; Rio Declaration; Inter-Governmental Agreement on the Environment (Posted 11 March 2019)

Could the legal meaning for the precautionary principle, as defined in the Water Act, place decision-making outcomes for the MDB Plan on a collision course with the need for ensuring procedural fairness between competing environment and development interests - as well as the need to safeguard the public interest?


Dr Ted Christie has had a long association with the precautionary principle:  In professional legal practice; research & publication in law & science; and as a Fulbright Professional Scholar (Award as a practising lawyer – “The Precautionary Principle and Legal Decision-Making”).



Part 2. Conflict Management: Best Available Scientific Knowledge

~v~ Reliable and  Scientific Evidence

(Posted 23 February 2019)

TAGS: Murray-Darling Basin Plan; best available scientific knowledge; statutory interpretation; peer review; objective criteria; relevant and reliable scientific evidence

There is no legal meaning provided in the Federal Water Act for the term “best available scientific knowledge”. The outcome has been to ignite an information conflict between the MDB Royal Commission and the MDB Authority. How should this conflict be best addressed?



Part 1: Introduction - Conflict Assessment

TAGS: Murray-Darling Basin Plan; Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission; Murray-Darling Basin Authority; best available scientific knowledge; climate change; precautionary principle; community consultation; public participation; ecologically sustainable development; mathematical modelling

The release of the Report of the Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission ignited significant controversy whether the Basin Plan prepared by the MDB Authority effectively integrates science and the law to resolve this public interest environmental conflict.

The following key findings of the Royal Commission

raise issues that may make decision-making by Government

problematic for implementing the Commission’s recommendations.

(i)          Best Available Scientific Knowledge

(ii)         Climate Change & the Precautionary Principle

(iii)       Effective Public Participation & Community Consultation

(iv)       The Triple Bottom Line: Ecologically Sustainable Development

(v)         Mathematical Modelling

These issues will be reviewed in a series of short articles that will be posted on this site along a pathway of conflict management and resolution.




Managing Water Resources in the National Interest

The Murray-Darling Basin River System Plan:

A Pathway for Conflict or Co-existence?

(Posted 2 March 2018)

KEY WORDS: Murray-Darling Basin; Basin Water Plan; conflict; Water Act 2007 (Cth); environmental decision-making; problem-solving; divergent scientific opinion; science; best available scientific knowledge; scientific round-table; law; disallowance.

1.0   The implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) Basin Plan now faces uncertainty created by divergent scientific opinion and political challenges from the Federal Parliament.

2.0   The source of the divergent scientific opinion is statutory interpretation: The legal obligation that requires the Basin Plan “to be based on the best available scientific knowledge and socio-economic analysis.

3.0   The prudent path for the MDBA to now take would be to evaluate its existing model for Basin decision-making to resolve divergent scientific opinion and conflict.

4.0   An alternative pathway is outlined based on joint problem-solving and shared responsibility: The scientific round-table is the cornerstone for resolving divergent scientific opinion and for reaching negotiated agreements to resolve conflict.

Read the full article...

A summary of the full article can be downloaded on the following LINK.

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