Water Minister David Littleproud will propose a new regulatory role in the Basin Plan to the states at a ministerial council meeting this Sunday.
Mr Littleproud says a new Basin-wide inspector-general would have powers under the Water Act to investigate compliance and water theft, and to monitor the progress of water recovery under the Basin Plan.
"This is a new tough cop on the beat across the Murray-Darling, with the powers needed to ensure integrity in delivery of the Basin Plan," Mr Littleproud said.
The inspector-general will hold to account the Murray Darling Basin Authority, Commonwealth and states to give the community confidence in the Basin Plan.
"The public needs to know the Basin Plan is delivering the water it was intended to, and farmers need to know the Plan is working for as it should," Mr Littleproud said.
"The Inspector-General can investigate suspected water theft, collect evidence and supply it to the authorities.
The proposed role of Mr Littleproud's inspector-general would be:
- Check on water recovery and delivery of efficiency projects
- Monitor compliance and suspected water theft across the Basin; investigate and collect evidence
- Provide annual reports to the Water Minister, to be tabled in parliament
- Community engagement on Basin Plan implementation and compliance matters
Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty was appointed to a three year term as the first Northern Basin Commissioner in September last year.
It remains to be seen if the states support the initiative.
The Minister's proposal appears to duplicate some of the changes recommended by the Productivity Commission in its most recent review of the Basin Plan.
Environment, irrigator and farmer representative groups have called on the government to implement the recommendations of the PC, which conducts the only statutory review process of the Basin Plan since the National Water Commission was disbanded in 2013.
The PC said the MDBA should be split into two agencies.
The PC wants a Murray Darling Basin Corporation to serve state governments with the expertise needed to implement the plan and manage the new Basin-wide water regime.
It also wants an independent Basin Plan Regulator to restore public confidence and provide in-the-field assessments that demonstrate that the state's offset projects are delivering the required amount of efficiencies.