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Law Council of Australia


Integrity of the Water Market in the Murray-Darling Basin

This submission has been prepared by the Australian Environmental and Planning Law Group (AEPLG) of the Law Council’s Legal Practice Section.

The Terms of Reference for this Inquiry include ‘the investigation and public disclosure by authorities, including the New South Wales Government and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, of reported breaches within the Murray-Darling Basin’ and ‘any other related matters’.

Following the National Water Initiative, water use rights in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia (the Basin States) are severed from land rights. The quantity of water attaching to each water use right is set from time to time by a public authority or Minister. This system of water rights is designed as a tool for managing water usage, recognising that water is a scarce resource. The primary means of ensuring that users do not exceed their entitlements is enforcement by public authorities.

The allegations of ‘water theft’ in the Murray-Darling Basin are ultimately allegations that this system of compliance and enforcement is inadequate. To address this inadequacy, it is important not only to look at the current implementation of enforcement and compliance mechanisms by public authorities, but open the enquiry to opportunities for private enforcement.

You can read the full submission below.


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