Thirst for engagement driving Glyde's MDBA decentralisation plan

By Stephen Easton

August 15, 2016

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority plans to expand its footprint to get closer to residents of the large water catchment area, but is taking a gradual approach to minimise disruption inside the agency and costs to taxpayers.

New positions — regional engagement officers — are being established as the first step in a plan to get closer to the agency’s stakeholders, explained chief executive Phillip Glyde.

“We will take our time to plan and get this right,” promised Glyde, an experienced public servant who has acted as Department of Agriculture and Water Resources secretary on several occasions, and has worked on both the environmental and agricultural sides of water management.

The decentralised approach aims to make it easier for members of Murray–Darling Basin communities and the various stakeholder lobby groups to communicate directly with the MDBA. Glyde also provided an update on his plans for new regional offices:

“For example we may expand our Toowoomba office to form a hub that can assist with implementing the Basin plan in the north.

“We are also well advanced in our planning to establish another office in the southern basin and I hope to be able to announce this in the near future.”

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce applauded the decentralisation announcement and backed up the CEO’s reasoning, while linking the decision to his own penchant for putting public service jobs outside the cities to “boost jobs and economic growth in regional areas” as an end in itself.

As well as taking the process slowly to minimise “unnecessary cost” to governments and the kind of internal “disruption” that could afflict the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority as it reluctantly sets up shop in Armidale to move jobs into Joyce’s electorate, the MDBA says it is keeping lines of communication open with the two relevant unions to smooth the process.

Joyce said Glyde had “continually recognised opportunities for the organisation to perform better through improved local engagement” since becoming CEO late last year. The Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources says “the ability of the MDBA to successfully deliver its functions” depends very much on how well it listens to the views of the people who are affected by its water management decisions:

“Recent community consultations in the northern Basin have highlighted the substantial knowledge and experience locals can bring to the table to help improve policy outcomes.

“Localism and adaptive management in Basin Plan implementation have long been promised — it is now time to deliver.”

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