NSW water register one step closer

By Jamie Salter

A NSW water register is one step closer to becoming legislation after a Water Rights Transparency Bill passed in the state's Upper House.

NSW Member for Murray Helen Dalton introduced the bill in October last year in an attempt to get politicians to declare their water ownership and outline foreign and domestic water holdings of individuals and corporations.

The bill is expected to be voted on in the Lower House on Thursday, September 17.

Mrs Dalton said the bill needed three National Party MPs’ votes to pass.

“This bill is vital,” she said.

“While water ownership is kept secret, we’ll continue to see traders and foreign corporations make millions from trading our water while small family farms go bust.

“At present, we have Cayman Island and Chinese government companies buying our water, but there is no way to identify them.”

The bill was first rejected because of concerns regarding Mrs Dalton's own water entitlements as an irrigator.

“Since introducing the bill, I’ve been subject to a lot of personal attacks, with the Deputy Premier John Barilaro calling me a ‘disgusting human’ and NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey saying I’m a ‘disgrace’," Mrs Dalton said.

The bill was then delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, causing the bill to expire before it was reintroduced to parliament in June.

The National Party has opposed the bill, saying it will violate the privacy of ‘mum and dad’ farmers.

“Everyone can see I own water if they walk past my farm,” Mrs Dalton said.

“A water register won’t breach privacy any more than the existing land register.

“In any case, my bill now has a clause that states that a public register will not include any private contact details of individual farmers — so there is no excuse for opposing it.”