Parliament has passed the Water Amendment (Review Implementation and Other Measures) Bill 2015, which aims to streamline water operations and support the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the amendments to the Water Act would give effect to the recommendations of the recent review into the operation of the Act, and ensure it better supports the delivery of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
“The Australian Government supported, in full or in part, all 23 of the recommendations made by the expert panel and I am pleased that we are now a step closer to putting them into action,” Mr Joyce said.
“The recommendations will improve the practical operation of the Act, to give us the best possible framework to support delivery of the economic, social and environmental outcomes of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
“The Murray-Darling Basin is arguably our most important water resource. It is vital to our agricultural productivity and the health of our environment and Basin communities.”
Mr Joyce said the independent review found that the fundamentals of the Water Act are sound, but he is committed to ensuring that the legislation that underpins delivery of the plan is as efficient and effective as possible.
“The Coalition Government is committed to sustainable agricultural production, healthy rivers and strong communities across the Basin which is why we are undertaking the most significant water infrastructure program in Australian history.
“On average, we are making around $2.5million dollars available each day for infrastructure upgrades to support the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental outcomes.
“We have also legislated a cap on water purchases of 1,500 gigalitres to help protect the social and economic well-being of the many Basin communities that are dependent on farming,” Mr Joyce said.
The Water Amendment Bill will deliver win-win outcomes for agriculture, communities and the environment by:
- Enabling the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to use water trade proceeds to fund environmental works
- Requiring five-yearly reviews of socioeconomic impacts of the Basin Plan
- Ensuring a further review of the Water Act in 2024, at which point the full outcomes and impacts of the Basin Plan should be known
As a further outcome of the review of the Water Act, changes to the Bureau of Meteorology’s Water Information arrangements have cut red tape by reducing the regulatory burden on the irrigation sector and state government agencies.