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Terms of Reference

  1. South Australia is a “Basin State” within the meaning of the Water Act 2007 (Cth) (“the Act”), the Basin Plan made under s.44(3)(b)(i) of the Act, and is a party to the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement (“the Basin Agreement”), which forms Schedule 1 to the Act. 
     
  2. There exist “Water Resource Plan Areas”, as defined in the Basin Plan, within the State of South Australia. The South Australian River Murray forms the downstream area of the Water Resource Plan Areas outlined in the Basin Plan.
     
  3. The objects and purposes of the Act and the Basin Plan include, but are not limited to, the following matters:
    1. ensuring the return to environmentally sustainable levels of extraction for water resources that are over-allocated or over-used;
    2. to protect, restore and provide for the ecological values and ecosystem services of the Murray-Darling Basin (taking into account, in particular, the impact that the taking of the water has on the water courses, lakes, wetlands, groundwater and water dependent ecosystems that are part of the Basin water resources and on associated biodiversity);
    3. the establishment and enforcement of environmentally sustainable limits on the quantities of surface water and groundwater that may be taken from the Basin water resources (including by interception activities);
    4. to give effect to relevant international agreements through the integrated management of Basin water resources;
    5. to establish a sustainable and long term adaptive management framework for the Basin water resources, that takes into account the broader management of natural resources in the Murray-Darling Basin;
    6. to optimise social, economic and environmental outcomes arising from the use of Basin water resources in the national interest;
    7. to achieve certain “enhanced environmental outcomes”. 

    These objects and purposes are more fully outlined in ss.3, 20 and 28 of the Act, chapters 5 and 8 of the Basin Plan, and Schedule 5 of the Basin Plan in relation to enhanced environmental outcomes. 

  4. The purpose of the Basin Agreement is to promote and co-ordinate effective planning and management for the equitable, efficient and sustainable use of water and other natural resources of the Murray-Darling Basin, including implementing arrangements between the Basin States in order to give effect to the Basin Plan and the Act. 
     
  5. As a Basin State, as a contracting party to the Basin Agreement, and as the downstream State, which includes the South Australian River Murray Water Resource Plan Area, South Australia has a significant interest in:
    1. compliance with and the effectiveness of the Basin Plan generally;
    2. the delivery of Water Resource Plans defined by the Act and Basin Plan in forms compliant and consistent with the Basin Plan by 30 June 2019; and
    3. the protection and improvement of the environment of the Murray-Darling Basin, which is itself dependent upon the implementation and effective operation of the Basin Plan. 
       
  6. The South Australian Government is concerned at recent reports as to alleged non-compliance with the Basin Plan, the current state of implementation of the Basin Plan, and whether the Basin Plan will achieve its objects and purposes and those of the Act. It considers that an independent Commission of Inquiry with coercive powers is required to inquire into these and related matters.

I, the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Executive Council, DO HEREBY APPOINT YOU to be a Commissioner to inquire into and report upon the following matters:

  1. Whether the Water Resource Plans defined by the Act and Basin Plan (which are to include the long-term average sustainable diversion limits for each Basin water resource) will be delivered in full and in a form compliant and consistent with the Basin Plan by 30 June 2019.
     
  2. If any Water Resource Plans are unlikely to be delivered in full and in a form compliant and consistent with the Basin Plan, the reasons for this.
     
  3. Whether the Basin Plan in its current form, its implementation, and any proposed amendments to the Plan, are likely to achieve the objects and purposes of the Act and Plan as variously outlined in ss.3, 20, 23 and 28 of the Act, and the ‘enhanced environmental outcomes’ and additional 450 GL provided for in s. 86AA(2) and (3) of the Act, respectively.
     
  4. Whether the underlying assumptions in the original modelling used to develop the objects and purposes of the Act and the Basin Plan have been sufficiently adjusted for the impact of improved technologies.
     
  5. If the Basin Plan is unlikely to achieve any of the objects and purposes of the Act and Basin Plan and/or the ‘enhanced environmental outcomes’ and the additional 450 GL referred to above, what amendments should be made to the Basin Plan or Act to achieve those objects and purposes, the ‘enhanced environmental outcomes’ and the additional 450 GL?
     
  6. Any legislative or other impediments to achieving any of the objects and purposes of the Act and Basin Plan and/or the ‘enhanced environmental outcomes’ and additional 450 GL referred to above, and any recommendations for legislative or other change if needed.
     
  7. The likely impact of alleged illegal take or other forms of non-compliance on achieving any of the objects and purposes of the Act and Basin Plan, and the ‘enhanced environmental outcomes’ and the additional 450 GL, referred to above.
     
  8. In relation to any found instances of illegal take or work, whether appropriate enforcement proceedings have been taken in respect of such matters and if not, why.
     
  9. Whether, in any event, the enforcement and compliance powers under the Act are adequate to prevent and address non-compliance with the Act and the Basin Plan, and any recommendations for legislative or other change if needed.
     
  10. Whether monitoring, metering and access to relevant information (such as usage data) is adequate to achieve the objects and purposes of the Act and Basin Plan and the ‘enhanced environmental outcomes’ and additional 450 GL referred to above.
     
  11. Whether water that is purchased by the Commonwealth for the purposes of achieving the objects and purposes of the Act and Basin Plan and/or the ‘enhanced environmental outcomes’ and the additional 450 GL referred to above will be adequately protected from take for irrigation under water resource plans, and any recommendations for legislative or other change if needed.
     
  12. Whether the Basin Plan in its current form, its implementation, and any proposed amendments to the Plan, are adequate to achieve the objects and purposes of the Act and Basin Plan, the ‘enhanced environmental outcomes’ and the additional 450 GL referred to above, taking into account likely, future climate change.
     
  13. Any other related matters.

AND I:

  1. Require you to begin your inquiry as soon as practicable.
  2. Require you to make your inquiry as expeditiously as possible.
  3. Require you to submit your final report by 1 February 2019. The provision of interim reports is at the discretion of the Commissioner.