The Basin Plan is a step change in the management of the Murray-Darling Basin (the Basin). It is part of a comprehensive effort by the Australian and Basin State Governments to reset the balance between environmental and consumptive use of water across the Basin and establish a long-term, sustainable water management system.
The plan sets environmental and other objectives for the Basin and establishes new, lower sustainable extraction limits to achieve them. It outlines key actions, decision-making processes and timeframes that governments are to adopt to implement the plan.
The development of the Basin Plan was a lengthy and an often-contested process, involving much negotiation and compromise before it was finalised and became law in November 2012. This involved a series of substantial trade-offs between balancing the environmental benefits across the Basin and the socioeconomic impacts on industries and regional communities of a permanent reduction in water available for irrigation.
Governments are to have largely established the new management arrangements embedded in the plan by 30 June 2019. The activities to reset the balance between the environment and consumptive use are to be fully implemented by 30 June 2024.
The Productivity Commission has responsibility for assessing the effectiveness of implementation of the Basin Plan and associated Water Resource Plans (WRPs) every five years. This function was included in the Water Act 2007 (Cwlth) to ensure there was a regular independent review. This type of comprehensive review is critical to ensure public confidence in the implementation of the Basin Plan. For these reasons, this review is different to the typical Productivity Commission inquiry.
For this assessment, the Commission has looked at:
- how the actions of governments to implement the Basin Plan are tracking against the set timeframes
- the extent to which management arrangements will deliver on the objectives of the plan and enable its impacts and outcomes to be evaluated
- whether actions to implement the Plan have been effective and efficient.