Message from the Chair of the National Water Commission Karlene Maywald

The Hon Karlene Maywald

The 2014‑15 Budget confirmed the Australian Government's decision to close National Water Commission at the end of this year in order to achieve a net saving of $20.9 million over the next four years. The Portfolio Budget Statement relating to the Commission states:

The Government has decided to cease the operations of the Commission in 2014-15 and to reallocate its statutory and some assessment responsibilities to other agencies. Legislation to repeal the National Water Commission Act 2004 will be tabled in the Parliament during the Budget sittings for effect from 1 January 2015.

In 2014-15 the NWC will focus its activities on the completion of the Triennial Assessment of Commonwealth, State and Territory governments' implementation of their commitments under the NWI and provide a report to the Minister and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on progress of reform and on key issues needing to be addressed in the future. The NWC will also undertake administrative action to close its operations by 31 December 2014.

Commission functions

Some of the National Water Commission's core functions will transfer to other agencies. In brief, we have responsibility to:

  • promote the objectives and outcomes of the National Water Initiative

  • assess progress by all governments in achieving their National Water Initiative commitments

  • audit the effectiveness of the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and associated water resource plans

  • assess the performance of MDB states in implementing agreed milestones under the National Partnership on Implementing Water Reform in the Murray-Darling Basin

  • promote transparency in the water sector - including through reports such as Commission's series of markets reports and itsNational Performance Reports for metropolitan, regional and rural water delivery agencies

  • undertake additional functions under the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Regulations 2011.

Commissioners have endeavoured to ensure that our core functions are transferred to the most appropriate agencies. At this point, final agreement on all transfers is yet to be reached. We will post updated information on our website as soon as it becomes available.

Current priorities

Over the next six months, the Commission will deliver on our remaining work program commitments, foremost of which is our National water reform assessment 2014 (Triennial Assessment). This report will present a comprehensive view of progress in the implementation of the National Water Initiative, including subsequent COAG reforms, and make recommendations on actions that governments should take to better achieve national water reform objectives and outcomes.

The Commission plans to submit this report to the Prime Minister, as Chair of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), along with State Premiers and Territory First Ministers, in late 2014.

Conclusion

In light of the Australian Government's decision, we are now working to ensure that the Commission's dedicated and professional staff obtain alternative employment opportunities that utilise their expertise and experience.

I would like to express our sincere thanks for the support that our stakeholders have offered during recent weeks. We will continue to work with you in coming months as the Commission finalises and delivers our final report on national water reform.

Ongoing commitment from all our partners - governments, industries and communities - will be critical to maintain water reform momentum, prevent backsliding and uphold transparent, independent and expert reporting.

Karlene Maywald

16 May 2014

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