Northern Basin Commissioner

The government is creating a new position of Inspector-General of Murray–Darling Basin Water Resources. This role will help deliver the Murray–Darling Basin Plan. It will improve transparency, accountability and community confidence.

The government will appoint Mick Keelty AO as Interim Inspector-General from 1 October 2019. This is pending new legislation under the Water Act 2017 to create a permanent position.

The Northern Basin Commissioner role will be subsumed by the Interim Inspector-General role from 1 October 2019.

Creating the Inspector-General role reflects the success of the Northern Basin Commissioner role, which has contributed to greater confidence in compliance and enforcement in the northern Basin.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​As part of a wider package of initiatives to support implementation of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, the Australian Government has appointed Mr Mick Keelty​, AO APM, as the independent Northern Basin Commissioner, for a three-year term.

Mr Keelty commenced in the role of Commissioner on 11 September 2018.

Focus of the role

The Northern Basin Commissioner will focus on overseeing implementation of the Northern Basin Review recommendations. The Commissioner will also monitor, audit and report annually on:

  • implementing water-use compliance measures
  • achieving Basin Plan environmental outcomes in the northern Basin
  • scientific and technical information that will increase our understanding of northern Basin environmental needs
  • environmental water activities in the northern Basin, including the Gwydir Wetlands, Macquarie Marshes and Narran Lakes
  • involving Indigenous communities in managing, planning and delivering water resources.

For more about the Commissioner’s role and responsibilities, including a work plan, download the document in the table.


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Terms of Reference for the Northern Basin Commissioner


The Australian Government will appoint an independent Northern Basin Commissioner (the Commissioner) to oversee implementation of the Northern Basin Review outcomes, and to audit and report on other Northern Basin matters including knowledge and information requirements, engagement with indigenous communities and implementation of water use compliance commitments.


The position is a non-statutory role for a fixed term of three years commencing 1 October 2018.


In a role that covers all surface water catchments in the northern Murray Darling Basin, the Commissioner will be responsible for monitoring, auditing and reporting on the following matters:

  1. Progress in environmental water recovery
  2. The development and implementation of ‘toolkit measures’, including
    1. the efficacy of measures to protect environmental flows from diversion
    2. coordinated delivery of planned and held environmental water and achievement of intended environmental outcomes
    3. active management of environmental water entitlements
    4. planning and construction of new fishways and measures to address cold water pollution from water released from storages
    5. planning and implementation of a new constraints measure in the Gwydir Valley
  3. Progress by New South Wales and Queensland governments in:
    1. finalising water resource plans for assessment and accreditation under the Basin Plan; and
    2. the subsequent implementation of water resource plans.
  4. The implementation of compliance reforms, including compliance commitments as set out in both the [proposed] Basin Compliance Compact and state-specific compliance commitments arising from reviews and audits undertaken by the New South Wales and Queensland governments
  5. Coordination activities with indigenous communities and representatives to enhance their ability to contribute to the management, planning and delivery of water resources.
  6. Any new scientific and technical knowledge and information relevant to:
    1. our understanding of northern Basin environmental needs; and
    2. Improved water resource management, including information on planning assumptions, floodplain harvesting and trade.
  7. Environmental water activities in the northern Basin, including the Narran Lakes, Macquarie Marshes and Gwydir Wetlands, for consistency with environmental watering plans and their intended environmental outcomes.


The Commissioner will report to Commonwealth water minister (the Minister), and will consult with the Minister for Environment and Energy as appropriate.

The Commissioner will be responsible for providing timely annual written reports to the Minister. The Minister will table the Commissioner’s reports in the Federal Parliament within 15 sitting days of receipt. The first such report will be due in September 2019. An interim report will be provided to the Minister within six months of commencement.

All of the Commissioner’s reports will be publicly released on the Department of Agriculture website.

Once provided to the Minister, all reports will be provided to the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council and the Minister for the Environment and Energy.


Australian Government funding will be made available to fund the position and one support person.


The Commissioner is based in the our Brisbane office.


The Commissioner:

  • reports to the Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management
  • consults with the Minister for the Environment.
  • will table annual progress reports to the Minister in the Australian Parliament within 15 sitting days of receipt
  • will provide these progress reports to the Murray–Darling Basin Ministerial Council and the Minister for the Environment.

Contact us


More information

Learn more about the Murray–Darling Basin Plan