Flooding is a natural part of our catchment processes. We are aware of the economic and social damage that floods can bring. But they also bring water to floodplains, wetlands and billabongs; and in doing this, trigger an important cycle of ecological events that eventually result in improved water quality and river health. Without floods the long-term productive capacity of the Murray-Darling Basin's natural resources will diminish.
Within the Basin we need to place floodplain management within both an integrated catchment management and a risk management framework. Flood management programs must balance competing objectives and seek to maximise social, economic and environmental outcomes. But despite investment in flood management programs, a level of risk will remain for people that live and farm on the floodplain. It is critical that communities in flood prone areas understand the related risks and manage their activities accordingly.
Floodplain management is constitutionally a State responsibility. The States have powers to control new activities on floodplains. Historic settlement practices have, however, in many areas substantially modified flood behaviour and generated adverse effects at the local, catchment and Basin scale. These works involve both private protection works (levees) and public infrastructure (for example, causeways, bridges, railways and roads). They are often many years old and in many instances redundant. Their modification or removal is expensive.
This Strategy sets out a series of principles that will guide the floodplain management activities of participating Governments across the Basin. It identifies research and development and community education activities that could provide Basin-wide benefits and pays particular attention to the need for coordinated efforts along the River Murray where floodplain activities in one State can directly impact upon other States.
The Strategy also defines the floodplain management role of the MDBC. It recognises that floodplain management is a State responsibility and that the States have well-developed programs. However, floodwater move across State boundaries and coordinated efforts by all States in the Basin together with facilitation by the Commission are required if we are to manage flood impacts for the benefit of the whole community.