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Fresh scrutiny for Murray Darling water market

Rural News

The two billion dollar Murray Darling Basin water market will come under the microscope of the ACCC.

The 15 month long probe will examine the role of water brokers, exchanges across the system, and the impact of speculators on the market.

National Irrigators Council Chief Executive Steve Whan told Macquarie National News Rural Reporter Eddie Summerfield, the market needs fixing.

“We do hope the ACCC will have the capacity and the resources to get out and get a really good picture of how things are working,” Mr Whan said.

“Commodities which aren’t getting as good as returns tend to not be able to pay for the water we see during drought periods.”

The terms of reference for the review include looking at constraints of the river system, and the transfer of water between different irrigation districts.

Federal Water Resources Minister David Littleproud says since the Basin Plan was signed-off in 2012, family farms have been suffering.

“They felt like they’ve been traded out of the market, the family farm has been taken out of it, so it’s time to review the market place,” Mr Littleproud said.

“We want to make sure there is equity in the market, government’s don’t interfere in a market unless there’s not balance, so we’ve asked the ACCC to find that out.”

The National Irrigators Council welcomes the review, stating its particularly needed, because the resource is so subject to climate variability.

“The basin plan has taken one in every five litres of water that use to be available for production is now in the environmental water holder’s hands, so you’ve got a small market to start with, then put on top of that drought, put on top of it constraints, and you have a really stressed situation,” Mr Whan said

An interim report will be given to government in May 2020, with the final report expected by the end of next year.

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Rural News