New bill to tackle water transparency

By Sophie Baldwin

NSW State Member for Murray Helen Dalton hasn't been afraid to tackle the big issues since she stepped into parliament this year — water, agriculture and rural communities are at the top of her list.

She is currently working on a bill designed to unveil the secrecy around water ownership with the aim to:

■ Improve the online water register so that members of the public can search for information on the NSW water entitlements of individuals, companies, government departments and irrigation schemes (at present, you need to know the WAL number, you can’t search for a person’s name or a company name).

■ Increase the amount of information Water Access Licence (WAL) holders and new applicants must provide about themselves and/or their companies in order to be granted a licence.

■ Add 'water entitlements' to the list of pecuniary interests that must be disclosed by members of NSW parliament.

Mrs Dalton believes there must be more transparency around water ownership and she was horrified to find out it was optional for politicians to disclose their water interests when they enter parliament.

She said she was relishing the challenge despite the criticism she has copped from other politicians including NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey, who recently called her a disgrace.

She said the NSW Government had lot to answer for when it came to water management and was a victim of decision paralysis.

“They have the ability to make some real changes including pulling out of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, looking at salt dilution flows and netting conveyance losses against the environmental water holder and more needs to be done to pressure South Australia into addressing their own environmental problems,” she said.

Ms Dalton said the one thing she learned since being in this job was to sing out and make a noise before things become law because unwinding was very difficult.

“Contact your ministers, pin them down on everything and hold them to account. Write letters and keep the pressure on, that is how the cracks start to appear.”