Submissions to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Interim Report into water markets close on Friday, August 28 and Murray Irrigation chairman Phil Snowden is urging locals to have their say.
Mr Snowden said the report, which was released on July 30, highlighted several issues local irrigators have been raising for years, and could be the turning point for them.
It found that the $1.5 billion a year basin water markets have outgrown the frameworks that govern them, and that change is needed for a market of this scale to operate efficiently and for the benefit of industries that depend on it.
‘‘I think the ACCC’s Interim Report is great for our region,’’ he said.
‘‘It feels like we’ve finally been heard about the lack of transparency in the current market rules and operation, the lack of equity across the Murray-Darling Basin, and the varying governance issues involved in managing river resources.
‘‘I’d also like to congratulate the ACCC for the fact that their report goes beyond just looking at the physical water market, but addresses factors that affect the broader market and the efficient management of the water, both productive and environmental.
‘‘We welcome the acknowledgment that while many people have prospered through the introduction of the water market, there are many who haven’t, and that the third party impacts associated with current management rules, particularly for us in the Southern Riverina, are real.
‘‘While we recognise that this is an interim, and not the final report, we’d like to see a holistic approach to river management and the many current inquiries that are underway, to reduce the overarching risk to our region.
‘‘We recognise that governments will face challenges in this approach, but it’s vital to ensure that river management and operations are fair for all river users.
‘‘As it stands, some of our irrigators — the people that grow the food we eat and the fibre we wear — are disadvantaged by the water market as it currently operates.’’
The ACCC has identified problems in several key areas, particularly with the current governance arrangements for the basin’s water markets.
A significant issue is that a range of different bodies oversee water markets in the Basin under different legal frameworks. Roles and responsibilities overlap in some areas, while leaving significant gaps in others.
Key findings identified include:
● Integrity of markets must be improved;
● Lack of transparency is compounding problems; and
● Trade rules may not reflect physical constraints.
Submissions to the ACCC’s Interim Report can be made online at consultation.accc.gov.au/agriculture/murray-darling-basin-inquiry-interim-report/.