Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2016
Prior to the election last year in Victoria, the former
Victorian Government introduced into Parliament the Water Bill
2014 (Vic). The Bill never became law. With a new Victorian
Government, it is not clear whether all or any of the reforms
proposed by the Water Bill 2014 (Vic) will be pursued.
There is one area of reform that is overdue. This is to better
align Victoria's water laws with the needs of the Basin Plan
under the Water Act 2007 (Cth). Compared with other Basin
States, being New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory,
Queensland and South Australia, Victoria is currently out of
By way of background, the Basin Plan was prepared under the
Water Act 2007 (Cth) and adopted on 22 November 2012. The
Basin Plan sets a basin-wide Sustainable Diversion Limit
(SDL) for surface water of 10,873GL. This means
that 2,750GL must be taken out of consumptive surface water
entitlement use in the Murray Darling Basin for the benefit of the
environment, from 1 July 2019 onwards.
The Basin Plan relies on Basin States preparing Water Resource
Plans (WRPs) to achieve the basin-wide SDL
specified in the Basin Plan, on a catchment- by-catchment basis.
Basin State WRPs eventually need to be consistent with the Basin
Plan, and accredited by the Federal Minister with assistance from
the Murray Darling Basin Authority.
In contrast with other Basin States, Victoria does not currently
have a single statutory instrument that would be defined as a WRP.
This undermines the integration between Victorian legislation and
the Basin Plan and it means that Victoria does not have one of the
core mechanisms by which the SDL under the Basin Plan is intended
to be achieved.
The point was made in the 2013 National Water Commission report
card, which stated that "Victoria does not have a single
statutory instrument that would be defined as a water plan under
NWI criteria". The 2013 report card concluded that
"the Victorian planning framework is complex and progress
in some areas of planning is very slow" and that
"the role of planning instruments [in Victoria] in
addressing sustainable water strategies is unclear".
Following a review of Victoria's water laws by the former
Victorian Government, the Water Bill 2014 (Vic) was
prepared and it proposed to introduce Water Resource Management
Orders (WRMOs). It would appear that the intention
of the WRMOs was that they could be utilised as WRPs for the
purposes of the Basin Plan.
It was not proposed under the reforms that the WRMOs would
define the consumptive pool only after the environmental needs of
the catchment were met: a controversial policy for irrigators, but
one arguably agreed to by Basin State Governments under the 2004
National Water Initiative.
Regardless of whether or not the WRMOs, or some other Victorian
statutory catchment based instrument, should prioritise
environmental needs, most stakeholders would agree that there is a
need for reform so that Victoria has a WRP instrument to submit for
federal accreditation under the Basin Plan, as is the case with
other Basin States.
It is timely for the new Victorian Government to continue the
law reform process to bring Victoria's water laws into line
with other Basin States.
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for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's
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relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named
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