The Productivity Commission will investigate Australia’s national water policy to help governments better handle future water management challenges.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and water minister Keith Pitt on Friday said the inquiry would look into whether governments have been successful in achieving the objectives, outcomes and timelines of reform ideas proposed under the National Water Initiative.
The 2004 initiative was an intergovernmental water agreement that recognised the need to “increase the productivity and efficiency of Australia’s water use, the need to service rural and urban communities, and to ensure the health of river and groundwater systems by establishing clear pathways to return all systems to environmentally sustainable levels of extraction”.
The National Water Commission was established to implement the NWI, but was abolished by the Abbott government a decade later. The PC was then made responsible for monitoring and auditing water reform.
The PC inquiry would also examine other subsequent reforms, to provide the Council of Australian Governments with advice on ways the NWI could be improved, including specific advice to assist governments to progress their commitments to renew the NWI.
Drew Collins has been appointed as an associate commissioner to assist with the inquiry, which is expected to be complete in early 2021.
Timelines for the review have been extended to allow extra time for households, businesses, and governments to engage with the commission, according to Frydenberg.
“A national, unified response at all levels of government is essential to face the current and future challenges of managing water,” he said.
“The commission will undertake broad public consultation, including with commonwealth, state and territory governments, consumers, environmental industries, and Indigenous stakeholders.”
The last productivity review into the NWI was completed in April 2019.