The National Irrigators Council (NIC) acknowledges and welcomes the appointment of the advisory group on water markets in the Murray-Darling Basin announced today by Minister for Resources and Water, The Hon. Keith Pitt MP.

NIC Chief Executive Officer Isaac Jeffrey said: “The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission earlier in the year released its extensive water markets report with a range of recommendations for reform. In the Federal Budget, the Government put aside funding for a panel to review these recommendations and the Minister has announced the nine member panel which will be chaired by Principal Adviser Daryl Quinlivan.

“NIC welcomes the appointment of the panel and recognises it is comprised of representatives from across industry and Basin States. I would like to echo the Minister’s comments that governments and stakeholders ‘owe it to all Basin communities and water
users to get this right.’

“Water policy and water markets are hugely complex and reform has wide reaching effects. The time must be taken to work through the report and its recommendations to get it right. In particular, the panel needs to assess the recommendations against the physical limitations of the system, including climate, constraints, storage, deliverability risks and conveyance

“NIC urges the panel to look at reforms which protect and enhance water property rights and we would caution against passing on any costs of reform to the irrigated agriculture sector. Irrigators put food on our tables and clothes on our backs, and they have shouldered much of the responsibility for water reform in this country. They cannot continue to be burdened with the costs of reform.

“Water markets have encouraged efficiency and boosted agricultural production. The creation of water markets predates the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and has provided a mechanism to allow Government to buy water back for the environment and enabled inflow of capital which has enhanced the value of irrigated agriculture.

“NIC supports reform which reduces the complexity and confusion in water markets, including around the myriad different exchanges. We would also support recommendations which seek to manage delivery shortfalls – an issue raised in numerous water reports including Sefton, ACCC and Productivity Commission Reports.

“NIC does not see a need for another new agency to join the complex web of existing water agencies, however we do agree there is a need to increase accountability, transparency and ensure markets are operating fairly. We would also welcome changes which achieve
greater cross-jurisdictional coordination and harmonisation.”

Ends. Media Contact: Isaac Jeffrey 0407 083 890