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Water Register Bill

UPDATE: Please see the latest amendment to this bill, to protect the privacy of mum-and-dad farmers

Why do we need this law change:

When I was elected to parliament, I was shocked to learn I didn’t have to declare my water entitlements in the conflict of interest form they make politicians sign.

We have to declare land, property, jobs and shares. But not water.  

I believe the first step in fixing our water problems is to find out who owns it.  

We know there are politicians, foreign companies, Sydney traders and government departments who own water – and manipulate the water trade – but it’s impossible to identify them.

The current online NSW Water Register prevents people from searching for the water entitlements of companies, individuals and government departments.

Applying for a water licence is currently easier than opening a bank account. People can hide behind a corporate veil so the general public don't know they're the actual purchaser. 

I’m introducing a bill to parliament to end the secrecy surrounding water ownership in NSW.  

My Bill will:

1)   Force NSW politicians to declare their water interests on our conflict of interest form. This includes any water they previously owned in the last five year and any water their spouse owns. 

2)   Change the application process for getting a water licence so people can't hide their identity when they apply for their licence. All current licence holders will also have to provide more information about company directors, shareholders and related corporations. 

3)  Change the online water register to allow people to search for water holdings of people, companies and government departments. This includes water holdings held within irrigation corporations. 

4)  Protect the privacy of mum-and-dad farmers by ensuring the public register does not publish personal phone numbers, emails or residential addresses. 

Why the NSW Government oppose my bill:

I first introduced my bill to NSW Parliament in February 2020. Since then, the National Party have done everything they can to block it. They even reported me to the parliamentary ethics committee. 

The Bill passed in the NSW Upper House in August 2020. Labor, SFF, The Greens, Animal Justice, One Nation and Independent MPs all voted for it. 

However, the Nationals and Liberals voted against my bill, on the grounds it violates the privacy of mum-and-dad farmers.

I believe this is a ridiculous. I'm an irrigator. Anyone who walks past my property knows I own water. My bill will expose the Sydney traders and foreign corporates who don't own land but buy and trade our most valuable resource. It is not intended to expose ordinary farmers. 

I will re-introduce the bill to parliament in September. My bill includes a new amendment, which makes it clear that no personal contact details - phone numbers, addresses and emails - can appear on the online public register.

The new amendment also increases transparency: by forcing irrigation corporations to disclose details of any water hidden by companies within their scheme.

Now, the Nationals and the Liberals have NO excuse to oppose this bill. if they do, you'll know they're protecting their donors and foreign interests. 

Click here to download a draft of my bill.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please email your feedback to [email protected]