Productivity Commission recommends more open Murray Darling

Improved accountability would boost progress on the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, according to the Productivity Commission.

Improved accountability would boost progress on the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, according to the Productivity Commission.

The interim report of the 2023 Murray–Darling Basin Plan implementation review was recently published. It found the Australian government’s proposed extension of the Basin Plan timeframes is necessary but won’t be enough.

“In the five years since the last Commission review, very little progress has been made on water recovery. Similarly, there has been little progress on supply and constraints-easing measures,” Associate Commissioner Chris Guest said.

“The Plan is central to securing a healthy working Basin. Basin governments must be more transparent and accountable for delivering the Plan.”

The Australian Government funds the states’ supply projects. Unviable supply projects should not continue to receive funding.

“The Australian Government Minister for Water should report annually to Parliament on the progress, feasibility and cost to date of supply projects and decide on their future,” Commissioner Joanne Chong said.

Water buybacks, entitlement review, adjustments for communities

Despite the prospect of more time, a significant water recovery shortfall is likely. The Australian Government should commence a renewed program of water recovery. They should use the most cost‑effective methods, including staged voluntary water entitlement purchases. This should occur alongside a commitment from Basin governments to support communities to adjust, where warranted.

A new government-owned corporate entity that operates at arm’s length from governments would be one option for undertaking water recovery and implementing some supply projects.

The report also finds that further efforts should be made to ease river constraints on environmental water delivery.

“Constraints-easing measures are critical to the success of the Basin Plan. Governments should implement them through a dedicated, standalone program,” Commissioner Guest said.

The Commission also says that more should be done to recognise the values and deliver on the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Basin Plan matters.

“Basin governments need to improve how they partner and share decision-making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They should also publicly report on this,” said Commissioner Chong.

“The Basin and the people who depend on it need this Plan to work. All Basin governments, under the leadership of the Australian Government, need to pull their weight,” Commissioner Guest said.

Read the full interim report and provide a comment or submission at

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