Government commits to ongoing water reforms

By Country News

The Federal Government has officially responded to a Productivity Commission inquiry into the National Water Initiative, saying it remains committed to the plan.

The National Water Initiative is a shared commitment by Australian, state and territory governments to increase efficiency of Australia’s water use.

It is designed to provide a consistent approach that will continue to lead to greater certainty and security for investment and productivity, rural and urban communities, and the environment.

Federal Water Minister David Littleproud said the government remained committed to ongoing water reforms.

‘‘We absolutely support the PC’s (Productivity Commission’s) recommendation to renew the Council of Australian Government’s National Water Initiative,’’ he said.

‘‘This would enable an increased focus on priorities identified by the PC of improving provisions for the environment, water infrastructure, indigenous Australians’ water needs and for cities and towns.’’

He said a number of recommendations had already been acted upon, including allowing the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to use water allocation sales to fund environmental activities and making more than $3billion in infrastructure and low-interest loans for the states.

A triennial assessment of the initiative was released by the Productivity Commission in May 2018, which recommended a renewed Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Water Initiative to guide the implementation.

Priority areas including environmental water management, investment in new water infrastructure and indigenous Australians’ water needs were also identified in the report.

‘‘And we have for the first time put $40million into securing indigenous cultural and economic water entitlements,’’ Mr Littleproud said.

‘‘We need to address those priorities as well as the demands of population growth, impacts of drought and climate variability, and community expectations.

‘‘Whilst we’re attentive to future water reforms, we will continue to work with COAG to complete critical water reforms already agreed to.

‘‘A national, unified response at all levels of government is essential to face current and future challenges.’’