The purpose of this Act is to implement the Government’s response to the Report of the Independent Review of the Water Act 2007. The Act also makes a number of minor or technical amendments unrelated to the Water Act Review.
The Act includes provisions relating to the monitoring and evaluating of impacts of the Basin Plan and to reduce the regulatory burden. Operations of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder are also addressed, including that it must publish details of all water it sells and the purpose for which the proceeds are used.
This Act mandates that at least two Indigenous persons must be members of the Basin Community Committee [s 202(5)(c)]. The Act also introduces the requirement to have regard to the social, spiritual and cultural matters relevant to Indigenous people in relation to the water resources in the preparation of a water resource plan [s 22(3)(ca)]. To facilitate this, Indigenous matters relevant to Basin water resources are added as a field in which an Authority member may have a high level of expertise [ s 178(3)(h)]. The Act also includes as one the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s functions to engage the Indigenous community on the use and management of Basin water resources [s 172(1)(ia)].
For further information, please see the Explanatory Memorandum or Second Reading Speech.
s 52A Annual analysis of Basin Plan's effectiveness
(1) The Authority must, after the end of each financial year, cause an analysis of the Basin Plan's effectiveness to be conducted.
(2) The Authority must prepare and give to the Minister a written report of the analysis within 6 months after the end of the financial year.
(3) The Minister must cause a copy of the report to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the Minister receives the report.
(4) A copy of the report must also be given to each other member of the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council.
s 106 Limitation on disposal of water and Commonwealth environmental water holdings
(1) The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder may only dispose of water or Commonwealth environmental water holdings in accordance with subsection (2) or (3).
Water or holdings that cannot be carried over, or that are likely to result in a reduced allocation
(2) The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder may dispose of water or Commonwealth environmental water holdings during a water accounting period if he or she reasonably believes that:
(a) the water or the water holdings are not required in the water accounting period to meet the objectives of:
(i) if the water is in, or the water holdings relate to water in, the Murray-Darling Basin--the environmental watering plan; or
(ii) if the water is in, or the water holdings relate to water in, an area outside the Murray-Darling Basin--any plans specified in the regulations in relation to that area; or
(iii) any applicable environmental watering schedules; and
(i) the water or the water holdings cannot be carried over into the next water accounting period; or
(ii) a water allocation in respect of particular Commonwealth environmental water holdings is likely to be reduced (including to nil) if the disposal does not occur.
Proceeds of disposal used for new acquisitions or environmental activities
(3) The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder may dispose of water or Commonwealth environmental water holdings if:
(a) the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder uses the proceeds of the disposal for either or both of the following activities:
(i) acquiring water or Commonwealth environmental water holdings;
(ii) for a disposal of a water allocation--environmental activities; and
(b) if the disposal is of a water allocation and any of the proceeds of the disposal are used for environmental activities--the long-term annual diversion limit condition is satisfied in relation to the disposal (see subsections (5) and (6)); and
(c) in any case--the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder reasonably believes, at the time of the disposal, that using the proceeds for activities of the kind mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii) (if applicable) would improve the capacity of the Commonwealth environmental water holdings to be applied to meet the objectives of one or more of the following:
(i) the environmental watering plan;
(ii) a plan specified in the regulations in relation to an area outside the Murray-Darling Basin;
(iii) protecting or restoring the environmental assets of an area outside the Murray-Darling Basin in relation to which those regulations do not specify a plan.
Note: Paragraph (c) is modified in relation to water access rights acquired by the Commonwealth with amounts debited from the Water for the Environment Special Account (see subsection 86AE(2)).
(4) For the purposes of subparagraph (3)(a)(ii) and paragraph (3)(b), environmental activities do not include paying a fee or charge of the kind referred to in paragraph 91(1)(a), (b) or (c), or subparagraph 91(1)(d)(i), (ii), (iii) or (iv), in relation to Commonwealth environmental water holdings.
Note: Section 91 is about regulated water charges.
(5) For the purposes of paragraph (3)(b), the long-term annual diversion limit condition is satisfied in relation to a disposal of a water allocation if:
(a) before the disposal, the Authority had published information indicating whether the long-term annual diversion limit had been complied with for a water accounting period for the part of the water resources of the water resource plan area to which the water allocation relates; and
(b) the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder is satisfied, at the time of the disposal and on the basis of information published as mentioned in paragraph (a), that, for the most recent water accounting period for which such information had been published, the limit had been complied with for that part of those water resources.
(6) The long-term annual diversion limit condition is also satisfied in relation to a disposal of a water allocation if the Authority had not published information of the kind mentioned in paragraph (5)(a) before the disposal for any water accounting period.
For each disposal of water or Commonwealth environmental water holdings by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder during the year:
(i) sufficient information to identify the water or water holdings disposed of; and
(ii) the amount of the proceeds of the disposal;
The purposes for which the proceeds of disposals of water or Commonwealth environmental water holdings have been used during the year.