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Role of water authority should not go down the drain

28 April 2014

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is encouraging the Australian Government to continue supporting the role of an independent authority to drive national water reform. The call comes amidst speculation that the National Water Commission could be on the chopping block as the Government prepares for the next Federal budget.

Chair of the NFF Water Taskforce, Mr Les Gordon, expressed his concern that if there is no push-back on potential cuts, the National Water Commission may not survive past this year.

“An independent role—without an agenda and without vested interests—must exist to oversee the national water reform process,” said Mr Gordon.

“If the National Water Commission were to be disbanded, an appropriate alternative would need to be put in place.

“Any alternative must be able to oversee reform activities undertaken by the states and territories as well as those at the Federal level. Currently, there is no viable alternative,” said Mr Gordon.

As a Statutory Authority, the National Water Commission conducts thorough independent audits on the progress of water reform throughout Australia, including assessing the effectiveness of water resource plans such as the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

“An independent role is vital to balance the diverse views and interests in water management. This role has had bi-partisan support in the past, and it also has ours,” said Mr Gordon.

“We cannot rely on existing agencies, such as the Murray–Darling Basin Authority or the Department of Environment, to take on the role.

“State or Commonwealth agencies responsible for shaping and implementing water reform should not mark their own homework. The need for independence is critical,” Mr Gordon said.

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