NSW Government votes to keep water ownership secret

28 September, 2020
NSW Government votes to keep water ownership secret  Image

The NSW Government voted against a bill to create an online public register listing all corporations, politicians and individuals who own NSW water entitlements on Thursday 24 September.


The Water Management Amendment (Water Rights Transparency) Bill 2020, introduced by SFF Murray MP Helen Dalton, was defeated 45-41 in the NSW Lower House. It had previously passed in the Upper House.


Across both Houses, all parties and independents supported Mrs Dalton’s bill, except the Liberals, Nationals and Fred Nile.


“Comedian and journalist friendlyjordies summed it up best. The reason for opposing this bill can be summed up in one word: corruption,” Mrs Dalton said


“Unless you secretly own lots of ‘liquid’ assets, you would vote for this bill,”


“This is the world we live in today. A comedian makes more sense than our leaders opposite me, who have aggressively fought to protect water secrecy for 12 months”.


Historically,  farmers in NSW had water entitlements attached to their land, which they used to grow food and fibre.


However, in the 1990s, water was separated from land, becoming a tradable commodity. Foreign corporations and non-farming entities are now able to buy and sell water for profit.


“They are buying water, hoarding it until a drought, then selling it to desperate farmers, making a massive profit,” Mrs Dalton said.


Currently, there is no way for the public to identify the state’s water owners. While an online NSW Public Register exists, it prevents the public for searching by name.


“The system is rife for corruption and conflicts of interests. Finding out who owns our water is the first step in fixing our water woes”.


In a previous debate on the bill, the Nationals argued that a public water register would violate the privacy of “mum-and-dad farmer”, exposing them to attacks by environmentalists.


“Would they also try and ban the White Pages for that same reason?,” Mrs Dalton asked


Mrs Dalton on Thursday tabled an amendment protecting privacy, stating no private contact details could be included on a public register.


NSW Nationals Water Minister Melinda Pavey and Albury Liberal MP Justin Clancy still spoke against the bill.


“They argued powerful irrigation corporations didn’t like the bill,” Mrs Dalton said


“They also said we need to wait for a national approach,”


“That’s rubbish. We have been waiting for 20 years. NSW should be taking the lead.”

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