Independent panel holds first meeting on Basin socio-economic impacts

18 June 2019
  • Independent experts appointed to study socio-economic impacts in Murray-Darling
  • Members of panel announced
  • Panel to provide preliminary advice by end of the year

The independent expert panel investigating social and economic conditions affecting communities across the Murray–Darling Basin has been announced in Mildura. 

Chairperson Robbie Sefton, Dr Deborah Peterson, Rene Woods, Andrew Kassebaum, David McKenzie and Bruce Simpson met in Canberra earlier this month. 

Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud said the panel discussed how it would deliver the report, the need for community consultation, flagged delivery of a preliminary report in December and its desire for a northern basin representative. 

“Government needs to know exactly what the effects of its policies are - that’s just common sense,’ Minister Littleproud said.

“The independent panel will look at how delivering the Basin Plan affects local communities and how to assist them.

“It will also look at how communities are changing and what their future needs might be. The Plan is not perfect as you’d expect when several governments have to agree, but it’s the very best we’re going to get and for certainty in rural communities it must be delivered. 

“Robbie Sefton has a strong background in regional, rural and agricultural issues and she will lead the panel.

“She has been joined by independent experts from across the Basin states who can help Basin governments understand the stresses on local communities, including Indigenous communities.

“It will also come up with strategies to support communities to adapt to change and build resilience.

”The panel is working on its terms of reference and will visit and consult with Basin communities.

“I’ve asked for a preliminary report by the end of the year so we can take action to build stronger local economies.

“The Panel has also indicated it wants to improve its coverage in the northern Basin and I agree. I will be looking to announce an additional panellist in the near future.”

Information on the research and how to get involved can be found at the MDBA website.

Panel members are:

  • Chairperson Robbie Sefton: Robbie is from northern New South Wales and a primary producer of wool, meat and grains. She has a strong background in agricultural issues and community engagement. She is a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program, a previous NSW Rural Woman of the Year recipient and serves on national boards and advisory groups for governments and businesses.
  • Dr Deborah Peterson: Deborah is an eminent agricultural and natural resource economist with a background in water management who has past roles with the Productivity Commission, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Victorian Department of Primary Industries and Energy and with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.
  • Rene Woods: Rene is a Nari Nari man from southwest New South Wales with a long involvement in securing rights to water for Aboriginal people, including as Chair of Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations and Operations Manager at Nari Nari Tribal Council. He is the Nature Conservancy project manager in Gayini Nimmie–Caira in southern NSW.
  • Andrew Kassebaum: Andrew is horticulturist based in the Riverland and Barossa Valley, specialising in the production of irrigated wine grapes. He is an elected member of the Berri Barmera council, a board member of Regional Development Australia Murraylands Riverland and the Berri Hotel Group, and a committee member of the River Murray Advisory Committee and the Murray-Darling Association Region 5.
  • David McKenzie: David is Managing Director of the Opteon Property Group, Chair of the Victorian Governments Regional Development Advisory Committee, and the Goulburn Regional Partnership. He is a Board member of Goulburn Murray Water, previous Director of North East Water (Chair) and Goulburn Valley Water, and is also the co-convener of the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMID) Water Leadership Forum.
  • Bruce Simpson: Bruce has spent more than 40 years in irrigated agriculture with experience in planning, management, practice, water policy, corporate governance and community. He owns and operates a farm advisory business, along with a family farming business north of Deniliquin. He has a long record of involvement with committees and boards in the Murray and Murrumbidgee regions. He is a graduate and Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Program and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.