A key cross-bench senator wants an urgent inquiry after the top water bureaucrat in NSW was recorded revealing plans to abandon the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
The recording, which aired on the ABC's Four Corners' program, shows NSW DPI deputy director of water Gavin Hanlon secretly offering to share government information with irrigation lobbyists, to help them to lobby against the water management plan.
The program also reported how billions of litres of water earmarked for the environment was being used to irrigate NSW cotton farms.
It has sparked calls from South Australia for an independent judicial inquiry into how much members of the NSW government knew.
Federal senator Nick Xenophon said what was revealed undermines the entire agreement the Commonwealth and states thrashed out in 2013.
‘‘That effectively will mean that the $13 billion of taxpayer funds committed to the Murray Darling Basin Plan will be a waste of money with this sort of undermining," he told ABC radio on Tuesday from Bali.
Asked about the use of water by cotton farms, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Monday said it was a state issue.
Murray Darling Basin Authority chief executive Phillip Glyde said the Four Corners program focused on the Barwon-Darling area where the New South Wales Government is responsible for managing local water issues, including setting the rules and enforcing them.
‘‘The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has known about issues in the Barwon-Darling for some time.
"Through the review of the Northern Basin, we heard from communities who were unhappy with the current application of water rules and regulations.
‘‘And that is why in November 2016 we recommended a change to the Basin Plan, including a number of additional projects to improve water management (referred to as toolkit measures).
One of these toolkit measures is a project to protect environmental flows in the Barwon-Darling.
"We maintain this toolkit measure is one important step towards improved water protection in the Barwon-Darling. We were pleased to see that the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council endorsed these projects in-principle on 16 June 2017,’’ Mr Glyde said.