Three months in and the new Chief Executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Andrew McConville, is under no delusions about the long and often narrow river ahead of him.
But that said, he has faith that the "last mile of the marathon" is before the authority and its sometimes controversial plan to ensure water for communities and the environment throughout the Murray-Darling Basin. The Basin Plan will be reviewed in 2026.
Mr McConville, who began his high-flying career at the UNE during the 1980s, said he joined the MDBA because there was nothing more important to Australians than the sustainable management of our water and our environment.
"It is in this regard that I see what we do here at the MDBA critically important because we are guardians or advocates if you like, for the rivers," Mr McConville said.
During a recent visit to Goondiwindi on the NSW-QLD border, on what was essentially a get-to-know communities tour, his message was two-fold: the Plan is a journey where the MDBA is urging communities from one end of the Basin to the other "come with us" and celebrate what has been and what can be achieved in the years to come.
"What it's not recognised for is bringing five governments together," he said.
"It's a great achievement to get four states and one commonwealth to agree on a reform agenda to improve the outcomes for everyone in the Basin from agriulture, for the environment, for communities and their tourism and for making sure we protect and enhance our river systems in what is the driest continent in the world."
"I sense a new energy and spirit of collaboration across the states, Commonwealth and MDBA to get in and deliver the plan," he said.
He says that is in stark contrast to the "early days" a decade ago.
Back then the Plan was met with "skepticism and fear of the unknown". It's a fear which, in hindsight, he understands.
"We could have done better."
He believes concerns arose because farmers and communities believed the plan was something that was being "imposed on them" without regard for their individual or community circumstances.
"My feeling is, on the whole, that is no longer the case. But we have to continue to work hard to ensure that we keep up that momentum." A decade of knowledge can only assist that.
"We all know more about climate change than we did 10 years ago."
However it's not just a matter of listening to the science. He said virtually everyone understands there will be "longer dry spells but more extreme rainfalls".
"What we have to do more of, and do better, is take that science and then ground-truth with what's the reality on the ground in local catchements and systems.
"We then have to compare both and work out what gels for everyone - farmers, towns, the environment, First Nation communities, tourism groups...," he said.
"All these groups have to come with us. I believe we can achieve that." And again it comes to the success of the plan so far.
"Many groups have questioned the plan but I don't believe anyone is saying, let's go back to the way it was.
"My predecessor Phil Glyde was spot on. He used to say that he never met anyone who liked the plan but he never met anyone who wants to undo it."
Mr McConville is excited about the plan's long-term future.
"I think we can have it all. I think we can have sustainble agricultural production, I think we can have the environment getting what it wants, we can have First Nations people getting what they need, we can have communities having the amentity of a healthy river system. I think all thses things are possible.
"I'm not suggesting for a moment it will be easy but I do think with good engagement, good sience and a good view to the future we can all do it."
Although he admits that being good at "whack a mole" is a handy talent.
"Problems will always pop up their head. But nothing is insurmountable."
Perhaps though with one proviso.
"I joined the MDBA because there is nothing more important to Australians than the sustainable management of our water and our environment.
"It is in this regard that I see what we do here at the MDBA critically important because we are guardians or advocates if you like, for the rivers."
He says he sees the plan as a "moral obligation".
"In my short time here I have also come to understand that the MDBA's guide rails are pretty tight. In addition to running the River Murray on behalf of Basin states, we hold governments accountable to their commitments to the Basin Plan - the largest reform of its kind in the world.
"As a science-based and evidence-driven organisation, we provide high quality advice to governments about how to effectively implement the Plan.
"In providing this advice we must be frank and fearless but also understand that at the end of the day it's up to governments to decide."
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