Trading rules and constraints measures top of agenda at MinCo

By Rodney Woods

Basin states have acknowledged concerns around foreign ownership and monopoly behaviour in the water markets and agreed to ask the ACCC to look at whether changes to trading rules are required and consider registration of brokers across state borders.

There was also acknowledgment around the table, at the Ministerial Council meeting today, that there are serious issues with constraints measures projects and a plan will now be developed to provide a more realistic timeframe, appropriate milestones and greater buy-in from local communities.

It was also decided that Victoria, NSW and South Australia will work together to collectively address the very real risk of deliverability shortfalls in the basin in the lower Murray - starting with looking at water extraction policies.

The three states will implement immediate precautionary measures to limit further extractions from the Murray River - protecting the rights of existing entitlement holders and reducing pressure on an already stressed system.

“Our irrigators have had very real concerns about how the water we’ve worked so hard to deliver can realistically be moved throughout the Basin, without causing further damage to the environment or communities," Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said.

“We need to make sure we do not turn our rivers into a superhighway for delivering water, which is why it’s so important we limit new extractions and come up with a better, community-led plan to move water past the constraints.”

Concerns continued to be raised about proposed changes to long-standing water sharing rules – with most basin states united in their refusal to support the Commonwealth’s push for a review into water sharing arrangements by the Inspector General.

However, all states supported the establishment of the office of the Inspector General to investigate compliance, but ministers were clear they would not be handing state powers over to the Commonwealth.

See more in next week's paper.