QWRAP commenced in response to three national reviews of the urban water sector undertaken independently by different Commonwealth agencies in 2011. All three were critical of the Queensland industry structure...
2011 - Infrastructure Australia: review was the most extreme, recommending sweeping changes to the Queensland and NSW local government water sectors including the potential for privatisation.
2011 - National Water Commission: review was limited to smaller service providers but also recommended reform of Queensland’s regional local government services.
2011 - The Productivity Commission: review allowed for extensive industry consultation and a full response was collated by qldwater with a complementary response provided by LGAQ. The inquiry was more thorough than the other reviews and acknowledged necessary diversity of water management approaches nationally. Nevertheless, it called for restructuring the Queensland regional sector: "There is a strong case for undertaking aggregation of small water and wastewater utilities in regional areas of New South Wales and Queensland. The precise approach — including identification of affected councils and the preferred grouping of councils — should be assessed and determined by relevant State Governments, in consultation with Local Governments and affected communities"
In the years since, there have been repeated calls for reform in regional Queensland and country NSW often including support for private investment and privatisation, for example...
2013 - National Infrastructure plan: (link) called for “regional delivery models, formal infrastructure agreements between bodies, and consolidation of local governments, especially in New South Wales and Queensland". It also suggested that “most of Australia’s water assets are publicly owned including $50 billion to $60 billion of water infrastructure suitable to be transferred to the private sector”.
2014 - National Water Commission: released a follow-on review reiterating that "urban water reform needs to be accelerated".
2015 - AWA Water Journal: included a series of opinion pieces on the water reform from McKeown, Schott, Cade, and Hillis & Fonti calling for institutional change and in some cases, privatisation.
2015 - Matthews (ATSE Focus): considered the industry and suggested "there is no intrinsic reason why water supply to urban communities should be largely run by the public sector rather than the private sector”.
2015 - Harper Review: investigated financial sustainability of the sector and concluded that "Governments should focus on strengthening economic regulation in urban water and creating incentives for increased private participation in the sector through improved pricing practices”.
2016 - Australian Infrastructure Plan: (link) recommended that "State and territory governments should undertake an independent audit of the performance, financial viability and capacity constraints of local councils to identify areas of highest risk. In New South Wales and Queensland, these audits should inform pathways to more sustainable models" and that "Governments should define a pathway to transfer state-owned metropolitan water utility businesses to private ownership to deliver more cost-effective, customer-responsive services."
2018 - Productivity Commission: in their first triennial review of the National Water Initiative, the inquiry recommended that “The Governments of New South Wales and Queensland should consider the merits of aggregation of regional water utilities, case-by-case [...] where the expected benefits of horizontal aggregation do not outweigh the costs, governments should consider the case for establishing regional alliances".
2020 - National Water Reform Committee: (link) urban water reform committee reaffirmed the need for reform to “improve delivery of services and operation of utilities in regional areas. While this was often raised with regard to New South Wales and Queensland, there was interest from (and challenges in) a range of other jurisdictions”.
2021 - Productivity Commission: (link) a draft of the second triennial review of the NWI released in February argued for a balanced approach to regional water reform: "A renewed National Water Initiative should contain agreed principles for governance of regional and remote water services where local governments retain ownership of utilities".