The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) yesterday released findings of its Murray-Darling Basin water markets inquiry and confirmed increased transparency in the water market can be achieved without impacting on the privacy of entitlement holders.
NSW Nationals Water Minister Melinda Pavey welcomed the report and noted a key finding that the public disclosure of names and other identifying details of water entitlement holders will not help solve market issues, a position the government has held consistently.
“Water transparency is currently front of mind in our communities and we have created multiple platforms to improve it NSW,” Mrs Pavey said.
“We support improving water transparency without compromising the privacy of mum and dad farmers – we don’t want to create ‘Aussie Farms 2.0’ by publishing individual address’s online and we want to make sure we aren’t creating water speculation, and be in a situation where the market can be manipulated.
“We need a governance framework that ensures trading rules and regulations are developed and implemented with a Basin-wide perspective, and in close connection to the river system’s physical characteristics.”
The ACCC found that publication of identity details is unlikely to improve transparency and may in fact have negative consequences for both the market and water entitlement holders.
“Of course, we understand the need for transparency, particularly for such a precious resource as water, and we are committed to working with federal and state counterparts to deliver that,” Mrs Pavey said.
“In NSW a number of publicly searchable registers are already available. Anyone can go online and search the NSW Water Register or the Water Access Licence Register.”
The NSW Water Register provides free public access to information about water licences, approvals, water trading, water dealings, environmental water and other matters related to water entitlements in NSW.
The Water Access License Register provides more detailed information about every water access licence in NSW, including current licence holders, share and extraction components, and licence conditions.
“What they don’t do is provide information that is protected under privacy laws, and rightly so,” Mrs Pavey said.
“The government supports improving transparency in the water market while protecting the privacy of our farmers, and we are continuing to make improvements where we can.
“That’s why I introduced a bill that will provide greater accountability for parliamentarians in relation to water ownership.
“We are committed to ensuring transparent, fair and sustainable access to water for our communities, our farmers and our businesses throughout NSW.”