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Discussion paper
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Under the Water Act 2007 (Cwlth), the Productivity Commission (the Commission) has responsibility for assessing the effectiveness of implementation of the Basin Plan — and associated water resource plans (WRPs) — every 5 years. This function was transferred to the Commission when the National Water Commission (NWC) was abolished in 2015. This assessment is the first to be undertaken by the Commission.

The Basin Plan represents a major step change in the management of the Murray-Darling Basin (the Basin). It is part of a comprehensive, large-scale Australian and Basin State government reform initiative to reset the balance between environmental and consumptive use of water across the Basin and establish a long-term, sustainable water management system.

Implementing the Basin Plan and associated reforms is a complex process. Basin States must develop new planning frameworks to manage water, implement significant water recovery and infrastructure projects and develop new approaches to managing water for the environment. It is also prone to controversy as governments work through review and adjustment provisions, and issues covered when formulating the Plan are reopened. This is made more difficult as the socioeconomic impacts of rebalancing to the new Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) become apparent and as some communities grapple with the realities of adjustment against a background of changing commodity prices and, in the southern Basin, water trade.

The Commission encourages submissions on issues relevant to the inquiry’s terms of reference. As a guide to preparing submissions, this issues paper outlines what the Commission sees as the material and relevant issues; it also contains a number of questions. It is not a requirement that participants answer all the questions nor limit their submissions to the questions raised.

Initial submissions should be provided to the Commission by 19 April 2018. Attachment B provides further details on how to make a submission. There will be opportunities to make further submissions following the public release of the draft report in August 2018. Key dates for the inquiry are set out at the front of this issues paper.

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