Irrigators welcome ACCC inquiry into water market

Irrigation-pipesThe National Irrigators’ Council says the Coalition announcement of an ACCC inquiry into the water market is welcome and it would like to see bipartisan support.

NIC CEO Steve Whan said “our election policy asked for Government action to make the water market more transparent. We welcome the announcement, though Government needs to ensure irrigators and industry experts have a say in terms of reference.

“The market is extremely complex; it has many different water products with separate state registries and a range of different timeframes for information.  Because there are so many different products the market has varying levels of depth and one of the problems right now is that we often don’t really know how ‘thin’ a particular market is.

“What that means is that we just don’t have enough timely information to know if a market is operating well or if it is, potentially, vulnerable to domination by an owner.

“Obviously at a time when water is so scarce this becomes particularly worrying for many people.  Record prices for allocation water are putting farmers out of business, and in that sort of environment we must expect, not just concern, but anger.

“The water market has achieved what it was designed to do, that is water goes to its highest value use.  But it would be ridiculous to suggest there are no losers in that process.

“Up until now the best guarantee against water market manipulation has been the fact that if an allocation of water is not used to grow something then it is worthless, and the investor has wasted their money.  That remains a key point, but we do need to see more action.

“We would also like to see this as a bipartisan process and would welcome Labor and other parties supporting this proposal.”

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