New measures for water transparency

By Jamie Salter

Companies who own two per cent or more water in an irrigation system will have their names published, as Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville implements new measures to increase water market transparency.

A community consultation showed local irrigators wanted to expose monopolisation and speculation in the water markets.

However, Ms Neville said irrigators did not support full market transparency of an individual's water bank accounts for fear it would impact regular irrigators.

“Victorian irrigators have made it clear they have concerns about speculators distorting the water market and that greater transparency is needed to provide confidence the market is working as it should,” she said.

“I have always supported more transparency, but there are legitimate concerns that releasing personal details could impact on the way trades are pursued — and I have listened to those concerns.”

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Group co-chair and State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said many irrigators had pushed for complete transparency.

“How much privacy do people need when we're dealing with our most precious resource?,” Ms Sheed said.

“We've done a lot of work on transparency and we've come to the conclusion of wanting total transparency, although we welcome the news, as it will give us information on speculation in the market.

“It will give us a whole lot of information; we haven't been understanding what's going on so this two per cent is a really good start.

“The number of water announcements since the (Canberra) convoy is amazing, it's put a spotlight on important issues.”

Non-water users in the market will have their accounts tracked and legal changes will be pursued to report allocation accounts with more than 20 trades per year.

New requirements will also provide clarity on the type and price of water purchases or transfers and the names of water brokers will be listed.

“These new measures reflect community feedback — boosting transparency and reassuring irrigators, while ensuring any questionable or irregular behaviour will be detected and reported,” Ms Neville said.

Ms Neville has called on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to look at overseas ownership, monopoly ownership and unhelpful speculation, along with registration of brokers across state borders.

She will encourage all Australian states to pursue these changes at the next Ministerial Council meeting.