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New independent regulator to restore community confidence in management of the Murray-Darling Basin

Announcement posted by Inspector General for Water Compliance 06 Aug 2021

A new independent regulator established by the Australian Government to build greater community confidence in Murray-Darling Basin water management and compliance officially started work yesterday, with the commencement of the Office of the Inspector-General of Water Compliance.

The Office will be led by Inspector-General of Water Compliance, former NSW Deputy Premier, parliamentarian and long-serving police officer, the Hon. Troy Grant and assumes responsibility for compliance and enforcement of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, Water Act and other resource plans.

As the first Inspector-General officially appointed to this role, Mr Grant will be supported by the Office of Water Compliance. New legislation provides the Office with the powers to identify water compliance issues and enforce water compliance rules.

Mr Grant, who has been Interim Inspector-General since December 2020, said with powers to act and strengthen Basin Plan compliance and enforcement, the Office’s independence and accountability was critical to building community trust in its regulatory role.

‘As Interim Inspector-General, I have been actively meeting with and talking to Basin communities and industry groups. The questions asked, and concerns raised, have made it clear to me that there is a lack of confidence in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and in the regulators themselves. Of equal concern, is the level of confusion about water compliance rules and regulations.

“I have received that message loud and clear and have already started work to make improvements. There needs to be a level playing field for all,” Mr Grant said, “I have made commitments to hit the ground running, so today I am pleased to announce the three immediate priorities for my Office.” 

The Inspector-General’s immediate priorities are undertaking the following consultative assessments to ensure that all parties are working to plan, and that best practice water management is being delivered. Two assessments are already underway, with the third to commence shortly:

Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO)

Focus - review the robustness and adequacy of the water management cycle including the delivery, measurement and review the use of water for the environment.

State/Territory Compliance and Enforcement

Focus - establish how decisions are made across the jurisdictions relating to water accounting, entitlements, measurement, allocation, governance, and barriers that inhibit the compliance and enforcement functions.

 River Murray and Lower Darling River System water data and accounting processes

Focus - assess the adequacy and robustness of the processes used to measure water at both Basin and individual valley scale in the River Murray and lower Darling River systems.

State Basin governments will continue to implement the Basin Plan. However, if laws are not enforced, or stronger action is required, the Office has the powers to step in and act to ensure integrity in the system and deliver positive outcomes for Basin communities.

More broadly, the Office of the Inspector-General of Water Compliance will:

  • oversee and monitor Commonwealth and Basin states’ compliance with and the implementation of existing water legislation and the Basin Plan;

  • provide clarity and certainty to Basin communities about water resource management; and

  • provide advice on matters referred by the Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt; and initiate its own inquiries, if required.

“I want Basin communities to know that they can count on me and my Office to hold regulators to account. I have staff based in five regional locations across the Basin, as well as regional Field Officers who are my day-to-day eyes and ears on the ground. So, have no doubt, I will know what’s really going on when it comes to water compliance.”

“Most importantly, my Office is truly independent, not driven by any party’s political agenda. We will do what we need to, to get the job done. If compliance laws are not being enforced, new legislation means my Office now has the power to act. And we will as needed.”