Note: New Water Charge Rules came into effect on 1 July 2020. For more information see Water charge rules.
In response to a recommendation from the Independent Review of the Water Act 2007 in 2014 , the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment wrote to the ACCC requesting advice on possible amendments to the:
- Water Charge (Infrastructure) Rules 2010
- Water Charge (Planning and Management Information) Rules 2010, and
- Water Charge (Termination Fees) Rules 2009.
Process for the review of the water charge rules
The ACCC provided multiple opportunities for stakeholder comment as part of the review of the water charge rules.
In May 2015, the ACCC published an issues paper which called for public submissions. It then met with infrastructure operators, representative groups, Basin state governments and other key stakeholders.
The ACCC also held a series of public forums in major irrigation communities across the Murray-Darling Basin, where interested parties could obtain information about the review and provide comment directly to ACCC staff.
The ACCC released its draft advice (including draft rules) in November 2015 which gave stakeholders an opportunity to comment on proposed amendments to the water charge rules.
The ACCC delivered its final advice (including proposed rules) to the responsible Minister (now the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) in September 2016. The Minister publicly released this advice and on 15 November 2016 gave notice of his intention to repeal Part 5 of the Water Charge (Infrastructure) Rules 2010, consistent with the ACCC’s rule advice 5-L.
On 31 January 2017, the Minister made rules to repeal Part 5 of the Water Charge (Infrastructure) Rules 2010. This removed requirements on certain operators to produce five-yearly Network Service Plans, consultation papers and information statements. The amended rules commenced on 1 July 2017.
The Minister then considered the remainder of the ACCC’s final advice. On 3 April 2019 the Minister amended the rules, including combining the three sets of rules into the Water Charge Rules 2010. The Minister also tabled a document of reasons outlining where he departed from the ACCC's advice in making the amended rules, as required by s 93(7) of the Water Act 2007.
The Minister accepted a majority of the ACCC’s advice, including amendments to make schedule of charges requirements clearer, return the regulation of bulk water infrastructure charges back to Basin States (provided minimum standards were met), and to simplify the calculation of termination fees. The Minister decided not to implement the ACCC’s recommendations regarding distributions, non-discrimination, and the removal of individuals’ private right of action.
The amended rules will commence on 1 July 2020.