Controversy in relation to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) continues following the ABC's 4 Corners episode ‘Pumped’ earlier this year and the allegations made in relation to the MDBP in that program, including allegations about widespread water theft.

The South Australian government recently announced it will launch a state Royal Commission to identify perpetrators of the alleged water theft.

The federal government has stated that it will co-operate with South Australia’s Royal Commission.

NSW's most senior water bureaucrat resigned after the 4 Corners episode which revealed that he offered to share government information with irrigators to help them lobby against the MDBP.

Other developments include that the NSW Ombudsman released in November 2017 its special report to Parliament under Section 31 of the Ombudsman Act 1974: Investigation into Water Compliance and Enforcement 2007-17.

The report concludes that in response to investigations in relation to enforcement and water compliance issues raised by concerned members of the community to relevant regulatory agencies over a long period of time, that the response of those agencies has often been inadequate due to reasons that include:

  • Chronic under-resourcing of compliance and enforcement roles
  • Constant restructure and transfer of regulatory responsibilities and resultant loss of staff and poor staff morale
  • Clash of cultures between a customer service focus and enforcement obligations.

South Australia’s Murray-Darling Royal Commission will have significant implications for Commonwealth and State departments and agencies with responsibilities in relation to water resource planning and regulation, as well as important implications for water authorities and agribusiness.