The Productivity Commission will take on the role of monitoring and auditing Australia’s progress in achieving water reform.

“By allocating these roles to the Productivity Commission, industry and customers will benefit from the Commissions reputation for independence and expertise,” said Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.

“The Government is confident that the Productivity Commission will strengthen and improve reporting and analysis of the progress of water reform across Australia, in a more efficient manner for taxpayers.

“In line with reform priorities across the Australian Government and the substantial progress already made in water reform, there is no longer adequate justification for the National Water Commission to continue as a stand-alone agency to monitor water reform,” he said. 

The National Water Commission will be wound up after the release of its final Triennial Assessment of national water reform later this year and it’s key monitoring and reporting roles will be transferred to existing Commonwealth agencies.

“The focus is now on ensuring that the principles of the National Water Initiative continue to be upheld and built upon across the water sector, from urban pricing principles to the management of rural and environmental water,” said Senator Birmingham.

“I would like to thank all the staff at the National Water Commission as well as past and present commissioner for the contribution they have made to water reform over the last decade, they should all be extremely proud of their work.

“Australia is now a world leader in water resource policy and management since the Howard Government secured state and territory agreement to the National Water Initiative a decade ago in 2004,” Senator Birmingham said.

Under legislation introduced today, essential functions currently performed by the National Water Commission will transfer to other Commonwealth agencies. Triennial assessments of National Water Initiative implementation by state and territory governments, as well as five yearly audits on the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan will be undertaken by the Productivity Commission.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences will be responsible for annual reporting on water markets.

The Department of the Environment will be responsible for the assessing milestone payments to Murray-Darling Basin states against the performance milestones specified in the National Partnership Agreement on Implementing Murray-Darling Basin reform. 

The role of advising the Clean Energy Regulator on effectiveness of water resource plans under the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Regulations 2011, will also be undertaken by the Department of the Environment.

Funding for continuing provisions of these functions was provided for in this year’s budget, while abolition of the standalone agency will save $20.9 million over the forward estimates.