The National Irrigators’ Council (NIC) has acknowledged the release of the Australian
Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Water Markets Inquiry Final Report.

NIC Chief Executive Officer Isaac Jeffrey said: “The NIC welcomes the long-awaited
release of the ACCC’s final report, noting while we support a number of the
recommendations, we remain hesitant on others.

“The water market has evolved over time into a complex and often confusing and
confronting framework, which we acknowledge has raised concerns when it comes
to farmers’ trust in the integrity of the market. What is important to note though is that
the ACCC found no evidence of market manipulation or insider trading.

“While the water market is different to the ASX or other markets, the NIC agrees some
of the existing rules could be updated, particularly relating to the realities of
constraints in the physical movement and storage of water in the system to give
irrigators and other water users more confidence in the market.

“Clearly the report shows there is a need for change, but that must be done with
market participants in mind and through engagement with the market to see how
these reforms could be done in reality.

“The centrepiece of the report is the creation of yet another government body
charged with oversight and compliance. Thought needs to be given to the cost and
funding models for such an agency, and the overlap created with other government

“Both the market and the management of water systems are complicated by the
shared responsibilities between governments. Any new agency or framework needs
to acknowledge this and not add to that complexity.

“The NIC remains committed to strong compliance mechanisms and notes the need
for change in some areas, but feels there may be existing organisations which could
take on some of the tasks suggested in the report, without the need for a new agency,
to avoid duplication, avoid wasting taxpayers’ money and avoid burdening our
sector with more paperwork and costs.”

Mr Jeffrey welcomed the report’s adoption of NIC’s recommendations regarding
transparency and clearer mechanisms for environmental water, as well as immediate
and ongoing work considering the impacts of deliverability risks and conveyance

“The Ministerial Council and Basin Officials Committee are blackholes when it comes
to decision making and even topics they consider at their meetings, so we welcome
a focus from the ACCC on increasing transparency,” Mr Jeffrey said.

“The NIC also welcomes recommendations which aim to address transparency issues
in allocation decisions and identifying the drivers of water availability by governments
to give water users some certainty so they can plan for the future.

“The recommendation for a single portal for water market information is supported,
but we would note that Irrigation Infrastructure Operators cannot be expected to
fund implementation. The ACCC must acknowledge that IIOs are cost recovery
organisations which are run to service the members who fund them, not to make their
own profits.

“We welcome the more systematic approach to environmental water integration in
the market, noting that the report also talks about strengthened metering and
monitoring of water users. Farmers are already significantly monitored and our
outcomes are measured in yield and economic performance per megalitre, and the
associated benefits which flow on into our communities. We believe any additional
metering and monitoring should be applied to environmental and community water
to show communities where their water is being used and its associated benefits.

“NIC is working with members, industry groups, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and
the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder on options to address deliverability
risks and conveyance losses, and have extended an invitation to state government
agencies to join us to work together on this important issue for all water users. We
support the ACCC’s focus and welcome its recommendations on this matter.

“The Minister has said that the time for reports is over and now is the time for action –
the NIC agrees. We don’t want to see taxpayers’ money wasted on more inquiries
and reports, let’s get on with the reform.

“The NIC is still working through some of the detail in this lengthy report and we will be
seeking further clarification from the ACCC on how its recommendations could work.
We will work with our members and other interested stakeholders to consider the
recommendations in full. In the interim, we look forward to seeing the Commonwealth
and Basin State Governments’ responses.”


Media Contact
Isaac Jeffrey – 0407 083 890 –