By Tanya Plibersek

02 August 2022

Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for Environment and Water

Release of Second Water for the Environment Special Account (WESA) Report

The Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek MP, has released the Second Water for the Environment Special Account (WESA) Report today. This second and final independent review has reported on the progress of WESA funding and delivery. 

The Report was handed to the previous Minister before last Christmas – it was kept secret and never released. 

It was kept secret because it shows that on current settings the 450GL will not be delivered. 

As shown in the report, the bulk of the total $1.775 Billion in the WESA remains unspent and the 450 GL target cannot be achieved under the current program settings. 

The Water for the Environment Special Account is the fund set up under the Water Act 2007 for two purposes:

    1. $1.575 billion to assist in delivering the 450GL of additional water for the environment
    2. $200 million for easing or removing constraints on the river channel’s capacity to deliver water to environmental sites.

These funds are available for a decade from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2024.

It has program criteria that guide how the money is spent. The bulk of the funds currently sit in the Off-Farm Efficiency Program (OFEP).

Quotes from Minister Tanya Plibersek MP:

“This is another report that was kept secret by the previous Government. It was handed to the previous Minister, the Hon Keith Pitt, before Christmas last year. 

“It’s disappointing this report was never released – but not surprising. The previous Government had no intention on delivering on the Murray Darling Basin Plan – they just didn’t have the guts to admit that before the election. 

“Their failure to deliver on the plan wasn’t due to a lack of money – it was a lack of will. 

“It shows 9 years of inaction on the 450GL, with a fund just sitting there. It shows a move to program settings that could not have delivered the 450GL even if the previous Government had wanted to. 

“The WESA funding expires on 30 June 2024 – it is clear from this Report that the Nationals were simply running down the clock on this money. 

“They were deliberately hoping to leave it unspent. Indeed, the report shows that under current policy settings, there is virtually no way that the money can be spent in the remaining timeframe.”

Quotes from the Report:

“It is not possible to reach the 450 GL target through the current efficiency measures program – the Off Farm Efficiency Program – even if the WESA’s time and budget limits were removed.”

“Putting aside program and timing limitations, the estimated cost to recover the full 450GL through [only] efficiency measures is between $3.4 billion and $10.8 billion.”