Better water market information and transparency will go a long way to improve the plight of water users in the Southern Murray-Darling Basin after years of uncertainty and frustration.
Nationals Senate Leader Bridget McKenzie, NSW Senator Perin Davey, and Member for Mallee Anne Webster MP, said water users across the basin need better information and clarity so they can get on with running their farm businesses.
“In 2019 we called for a comprehensive independent review of the water market because our communities were raising justifiable concerns about how it was operating and the impact on farm businesses,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Regulation of water trading needs to be fit for purpose – and it’s not. The interim report is now with the Treasurer, the government needs to release this report so water users can have input into developing a 21st century water trading environment that works for them.
“Importantly, we must have improved transparency and operational fairness in the water market. Other critical areas include the regulation of water brokerage and transparency over water ownership, which will be possible before the finalisation of the report by the ACCC in November.”
Senator Davey said that while the release of the report of the Interim Inspector General of the Murray-Darling Basin, Mick Keelty, provided information about the operation of our river systems and the complexity of inter-state management, the report many are waiting on is the ACCC review of the water market.
“Water trading does provide opportunities for farm businesses, but low availability and increased demand have led to price spikes with significant impacts to our productive industries. The flow-on- effects are devastating some of our communities.”
“Increased competition in the water market is hurting Basin Communities that have already been struggling due to drought,” she said.
Dr Webster added: “Our irrigation industries are worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Australian economy and we need to make sure our irrigators, the end users of water, are operating in a fair market.
“People are rightly concerned about how the market operates because there is a lack of transparency. What we want is a fair playing field so people can manage their farms with accurate, relevant information and get on with producing food and fibre for our nation,” she said.
Senator McKenzie said The Nationals will be seeking solutions that will provide better information about water availability, inter valley trading and real-time price data, which will go some way to addressing the justifiable community concerns.