IN a world where praise for State and Federal politicians and government bureaucrats is scarce and often viewed as something suspicious or unusual when it’s actually handed out, I felt it was appropriate to give credit where credit’s due this week.
I’m not going to go as far as saying the Murray Darling Basin Authority has got its act completely together as many aspects of it work are yet to be fully tested in the full light of day.
The Authority’s task is still a work in progress - in similar fashion to the ecology of the river system that it serves.
But the MDBA has certainly come a long way since the Guide draft Basin plan was released in October last year and deserves some praise.
Under the Authority’s new Chairman, Craig Knowles, there has been a wealth of consultation with rural communities and key stakeholder groups including State and Territory governments, creating a strong impression of progressive interaction and flexibility within the overall process, which was sadly lacking in the Guide which effectively said "thanks for coming" to Australian farmers.
Even if people disagree with the new numbers when the draft is released on Monday – and they will – there will be less to complain about.
Mr Knowles has succeeded in disarming and removing as much of the potential ammunition for criticism of the plan and the Authority over the next 20 weeks, by simply asking rural communities and key groups, ahead of time, what they want and how they can work with the Authority to help solve problems.
Even in the media, I have experienced the benefits of being able to engage first hand with the man at the helm in the past year.
The difference I’ve experienced between Mike Taylor’s attitude and that of Mr Knowles can only be compared to the varied dynamics of living through a drought or flood.
Information has been freely available under Mr Knowles, and while I appreciate Mr Taylor had a tough job on his hands, I get the feeling Mr Knowles has gone to great lengths to make all stakeholders feel valued where best he can, including me.
Due to greater inclusion, the starting point for this next phase in the water reform process – or round six of a 12 round fight as some choose to call it - is certainly more fertile for producing a positive result and avoiding an over-blown and bitter, public battle.