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New agreement to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full

Following several reviews by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and conversations between Basin Ministers, in June 2023 the MDBA confirmed that full implementation of the Basin Plan is not possible by the legislated deadline of 30 June 2024.

On 22 August 2023 the Australian Government and governments of New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory announced an agreement to amend the Water Act 2007 (Cth) and the Basin Plan 2012. Once passed, the amendment will allow for delivery of the Basin Plan in full with extended timeframes and amended provisions to deliver key outcomes. The Victorian Government is not currently part of this agreement, but the Australian Government has stated that the ‘door remains open’ to Victoria.

Ministers agreed to support extensions to the following Basin Plan deliverables:

  • Delivery of Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) supply and constraints projects extended until 31 December 2026, with reconciliation of project outcomes to occur by 31 December 2026
  • Recovery of the 450 GL of additional environmental water extended until 31 December 2027
  • Completion of the Northern Basin Toolkit projects extended until 31 December 2026.

Ministers further agreed to the following legislative amendments to maximise Basin Plan outcomes:

  • Basin states to bring forward new supply projects that can be achieved by 31 December 2026
  • Remove legislative barriers to recovery of the 450 GL, and allowing voluntary buybacks from willing sellers for this purpose
  • Greater accountability requirements on jurisdictions to meet Basin Plan obligations including sustainable diversion limit compliance and water management through Water Resource Plans
  • Strengthen arrangements to improve connectivity in the northern Basin and protect environmental water from reregulation throughout the Basin.

On 6 September 2023 the Australian Government introduced the Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023 into the Australian Parliament. In addition to the agreement, the bill includes recommendations from the Water Market Reform: Final Roadmap to restore transparency, integrity and confidence in water markets and water management in the Basin.