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The committee is aware that the management of the MDB, and the allocation and monitoring of its water resources, is a matter of detailed, long-running, passionate and ongoing debate and discussion. The committee acknowledges the many and varied views on how the Basin should be administered, from a diversity of stakeholders.

Further, there is considerable breadth to the matters before the Commonwealth and the Basin states with regard to the management of the water resources of the MDB, many of which are beyond the scope of the committee's current inquiry.

While the committee is aware of the numerous issues confronting Basin stakeholders at the present time, it is required to concentrate specifically on the terms of reference as referred to it by the Senate. The committee has focused on the allegations of water theft in the MDB and has considered the findings and recommendations of the various reviews and investigations that resulted from these allegations. The water monitoring and compliance mechanisms in place across the system, or lack thereof, discrepancies in approaches to water metering and monitoring between Basin states, and the role of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) in water compliance have been of particular interest throughout the inquiry.

Further, the committee acknowledges that some time has lapsed since the commencement of this inquiry. Accordingly, a number of matters raised by submitters and witnesses have progressed or reached a resolution (for example, the Northern Basin Review and adjustments to water recovery targets, the installation of the Broken Hill pipeline, and the ongoing South Australian royal commission into the MDB). Some of the developments that have taken place since the inquiry was first initiated are considered throughout this report.

Report structure:

Chapter 1 provides a summary of the allegations made concerning water theft across the MDB. It also examines the principles of effective water compliance
and enforcement.

Chapter 2 provides information on the governance arrangements and legislative framework for the MDB and implementation of the Basin Plan. It also details the water metering and monitoring regulatory framework for the Basin, with a focus on a number of Basin state jurisdictions.

Chapter 3 summarises the key findings and recommendations of the various investigations and reviews into water management across the Basin, particularly in
NSW via the Ken Matthews review.

The fourth chapter looks specifically at the compliance review undertaken by the MDBA and the findings of that review.

Chapter 5 examines the Water for the Environment Special Account, including its expenditure, oversight and annual reporting. The chapter also provides
discussion and case studies on water buybacks by the Commonwealth, and the role of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

Progress on water compliance matters since the commencement of this inquiry is considered in Chapter 6. This chapter also presents the committee's views
and recommendations.

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