A series of legislative and policy developments to reform the water sector in the State of Queensland, Australia were put in place over 1999-01 (and ongoing), following Commonwealth (national) government water reform initiatives in 1996.
The measures include:
- Use of consultation across the stakeholder spectrum from high level of government through to farmers to help develop plans
- Preparation of draft policy papers then Bills used to drive process
- Preparation of supporting legislation for regulation of service providers, reform of water authorities; introduction of third party enforcement for offences, compliance notices, increased penalties;
- Introduction of legislation to enshrine environmental flow requirements in the Development of Water (Allocation and Management) Bill
- Use of a ‘whole of river basin’ strategic plan approach within which local resource operation plans are prepared and implemented
- Integration of the reforms with the local planning processes of Queensland
- An incremental approach, with water planning developing in “bite-sized chunks” allowed government to be flexible in response to changing circumstances.
- However, the process would have been streamlined action had been taken earlier to separate regulatory functions from supply or service provision roles
- Furthermore, a clearer definition of roles and responsibilities should have done earlier
- In water allocation to local governments (and, presumably, to other users), the government should not mandate how the allocated water is to be used. Instead, it should limit itself to the allocation, and allow the local governments to specify how the allocated water is to be used .
Importance of the case for IWRM
The case illustrates how environmental flow requirements for rivers can be built into a planning process: includes assessment scenarios to demonstrate what makes a river “healthy”.
It also demonstrates how river basin scale water planning can be developed incrementally by engaging end-users, and how it can be linked to local government planning initiatives. It is applicable to many other GWP regions which sub-humid/sub-tropical environments and which are struggling with water reform.
Photo credit: Stefan Krasowski