National Water Initiative (NWI) is an
agreement of Federal, State and Territory Governments through the
Council of Australian Governments (COAG) regarding
water use and management. Its objective is to "result in a
nationally-compatible, market, regulatory and planning based system
of managing surface and groundwater resources for rural and urban
use that optimises economic, social and environmental
The NWI sets out 10 ways to implement this objective, including
clear and nationally-compatible characteristics for secure
water access entitlements;
transparent, statutory based water planning;
the return of all currently over-allocated or overused systems
to environmentally-sustainable levels of extraction; and
removal of barriers to trade in water.
The Report has been prepared by the National Water Commission
under a specific statutory obligation (under the National Water
Commission Act 2004 (Cth)) to review the NWI comprehensively in
Summary of the Report
The Report includes an assessment of:
The extent to which actions under the NWI have improved the
sustainable management of Australian water resources and have
contributed to the national interest (Chapters 1 to 3).
The impact of the implementation of the NWI on regional, rural
and urban communities (Chapter 4).
Progress against performance indicators developed by the
National Resource Management Ministerial Council in consultation
with the Commission (Appendix A).
Key recommendations and findings
In the Report, the Commission identifies three key elements as
essential to continuing national water reform: renewed leadership,
a maturing of the water management agenda and a focus on the
national arrangements that will make it happen.
Continuing political commitment is a key focus of the Report,
with the Commission finding that the NWI has delivered significant,
tangible benefits for Australia, but that a number of its intended
benefits are yet to be fully delivered. Of particular significance
is the finding that many water resources are still not being
managed sustainably, and in many jurisdictions accountability for
environmental outcomes remains weak.
The mining sector's impact on water resources is also
recognised in the Report, and in particular, the impact of the coal
seam gas industry in New South Wales and Queensland. The Commission
recommends that states and territories review their existing mining
and petroleum regulatory arrangements to ensure they address water
The Report also points to the likelihood of further urban water
reforms. The Commission recommends that COAG should develop a new
set of objectives and actions to provide national leadership in
this area. This recommendation is consistent with the
Commission's recent publication
Urban Water in Australia: Future Directions. The Productivity
Commission's final report into Australia's Urban Water
Sector, which was released earlier this week (on 12 October 2011),
also points to the need for further reform.
The Report confirms that all facets of water use –
agricultural, environmental, mining and urban – are
likely to remain on the reform agenda for some time.
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide
commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon
as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular
transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin.
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