A third of Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) staff are expected to be employed in regional communities, Agriculture and Water Minister David Littleproud says.
Mr Littleproud confirmed the commitment on Wednesday as he announced that up to 30 MDBA jobs would be relocated to Griffith, New South Wales.
Earlier he announced 12 MDBA jobs would be moved to Murray Bridge, South Australia, another 20 jobs would relocate to Mildura, Victoria, and another location is expected to be announced on Thursday.
“Those that manage the river should live on the river,” Mr Littleproud said.
He said the decision to move the jobs was “predicated on essence of delivery, spread geographically, where a lot of management of the river system is required”.
“Let’s not be cynical, let’s just celebrate,” Mr Littleproud said, rejecting any suggestion that the jobs are being relocated for political gain.
The jobs are existing, not new, and staff are yet to be consulted about how the decentralisation process will work and who is expected to relocate.
It is not clear what government funding has been allocated to assist with the changes, which are expected to affect about 100 workers.
Relocation ‘won’t affect delivery’
MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde said staff could relocate and successfully deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
“We welcome the investment by the federal government in further decentralisation,” Mr Glyde said.
“We’ve got 10 per cent out of our staff there. We’ve done that over the past two years within our own budget, but with this investment we can do so much more.
“There’s a two-year period to roll this out, so that we can do this, and still deliver the Basin Plan [which has] a lot of tight deadlines between now and then, and we’re really quite comfortable that.”
It is not yet clear which staff will be expected to move, or what compensation will be provided.
“I haven’t been back to the MDBA, we started yesterday with these announcements, so far people are just wanting to find out the details and know what’s involved,” Mr Glyde said.
“When I go back on Friday I’ll be talking directly with staff.”
The MDBA currently has regional offices in Adelaide, Albury-Wodonga, Goondiwindi, Toowoomba.
Relocations from ‘senior executives down’
Mr Littleproud said all staff at the MDBA would be considered for relocation.
“For the last 24 hours I’ve been working on Phillip Glyde to move out of Canberra,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The reality is it’s from the senior executive level down. We’re going to look right across the board, from decision-makers right through environmental people to compliance.
“The suite of opportunities are there.
“So we will be asking them to relocate and we will be looking for those who want to start up, whether they be local or from Australia or around the globe.
“We saw that with the Regional Investment Corporation and APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority).”
NSW Regional Water Minister Niall Blair said his state, together with Victoria, had pushed for the bureaucrats to relocate to as part of Basin negotiations last December.
“We wanted the authority to be located in the communities that are impacted by its decisions,” Mr Blair said.
“There’ll be more knowledge passed on on the side of a sporting field or at a cafe than what you might get in a formal meeting or briefing.”
National Irrigators Council spokesman Steve Whan said there had been push for quite some time to see the MDBA in Basin communities.
“If it is done carefully, with respect for employees and keeping knowledge within the authority, I think it is a positive move,” Mr Whan said.