Water Act amendments – an important first step on the road to a better Basin Plan

Water Act amendments – an important first step on the road to a better Basin Plan

Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley, has today backed the Australian Government’s full or in part acceptance of all 23 recommended changes to the Water Act, saying that these are an important start on the process of making the necessary adjustments to the Basin Plan.

“These amendments were recommended as part of the independent review into the Water Act, conducted by an independent panel of experts in irrigated agriculture, business regulation, law and science,” Ms Ley said.

“I know that representatives from our local areas were invited to be part of that consultation process and am pleased that Murray Irrigation, Ricegrowers Association, Southern Riverina Irrigators and Coleambally Irrigation were some of those groups asked to contribute to last year’s discussion”.

In response to the review, the Government has committed to further work with industry as a means of identifying ways improve both the transparency of the water market, and the quality and availability of information available for water users.

The Bill legislates the requirement for five yearly reviews into the social and economic impacts of the Basin Plan from 2020 which is a continuation of the evaluation already scheduled for completion next year.

However Ms Ley says that this amendment should be extended to include more frequent reviews of the environmental water recovery, and that this was one of the issues discussed when Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) Chief Executive, Phillip Glyde, toured the Southern Riverina recently.

If passed, the Water Act Amendment Bill will also provide flexibility for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) to use the proceeds of water allocation trade on complementary environmental works and measures. Under existing arrangements the CEWH is only able to spend proceeds of trade on the purchasing water.

Ms Ley said that she welcomed these amendments as a first step but believes that more needs to be done, particularly with regard to enabling more water to be traded more easily between the environment and agriculture, something that is already under active consideration.

“Our communities need to have their voices heard and they need to be understood. This includes understanding the cumulative effects of so much productive water being removed from the vital infrastructure of our farming operations.

“There are adjustments that we know can be made to provide further flexibility for the CEWH when it comes to water trading, particularly when general security allocations are as low as they have been this season,” Ms Ley said.

“I intend to speak further on the Bill in the Parliament and I look forward to announcing Minister Joyce’s visit to the region soon.”