We need transparency

By Zoe McMaugh

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, according to a trio of politicians.

Nationals Senate Leader Bridget McKenzie, NSW Senator Perin Davey, and Member for Mallee Anne Webster said water users across the basin need better information and clarity so they can get on with running their farm businesses.

Senator Davey said 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 had been waiting on is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission review of the water market.

A draft was released on Thursday, indicating that ‘‘water markets in the Murray-Darling Basin need major changes to allow for open, fair and efficient water trading that benefits water users, communities and the economy’’.

‘‘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,’’ Senator Davey said.

‘‘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.’’

Senator McKenzie said calls for an independent review in to the water market were made in 2019.

‘‘Regulation of water trading needs to be fit for purpose, and it’s not,’’ she said.

‘‘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 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.T

he full interim report, including a list of options for feedback, is available here.