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Lack of leadership in water register debate

NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey has lacked leadership in her handling of legislation to implement a water ownership register, according to the Speak Up Campaign.

Its Deputy Chair Lachlan Marshall said there was general disappointment in the farming community at the inability of politicians to develop policies that help us achieve the most effective use of scarce water resources.

“Ms Pavey blamed our irrigation companies for not supporting Helen Dalton’s water ownership register, but that’s a bit of a cop out,” Mr Marshall said.

“We are naturally disappointed these companies, including Murray Irrigation Ltd, did not represent the views of many shareholders when they expressed concerns about the register.

“However, we believe if the Minister had been proactive and shown true leadership the concerns raised could have been overcome.”

In parliament, Ms Pavey quoted Coleambally Irrigation as stating it was “extremely concerned this bill would provide increased opportunity for vexatious behaviour towards individuals and create conflict in our region”. She said Murray Irrigation did not believe there had been sufficient consultation with irrigation companies.

“It should not have been difficult to work together and achieve a compromise that would provide an effective water register,” Mr Marshall said.

“The irrigation companies which expressed concern are all in Mrs Dalton’s electorate and had several months to work with her to overcome their issues. Why do our leaders and bureaucracies find it so difficult to solve problems with a ‘can do’ attitude? It is extremely frustrating.”

Mr Marshall said there were claims that we need to wait until the ACCC report is released and then have a national register.

“Why couldn’t Minister Pavey help establish a New South Wales model, which may even become an example for others to follow?

“This issue has been before Parliament three times, which indicates there is a strong desire in the community to develop a solution. Yet we didn’t have the leadership required for this to be achieved,” he said.

There were 11,000 signatories on a Speak Up Campaign petition this year calling for a NSW water register, after which legislation was developed by Member for Murray Helen Dalton, but it has twice been rejected.

Mr Marshall said Minister Pavey should have been listening to farmers, not irrigation companies, in efforts to develop a workable solution.

“We need a water register so there is transparency around who owns our water and what is the purpose of their ownership. It’s hard to believe the government, and the National Party in particular, are not more interested in protecting those who may be exposed, rather than developing good policy.

“Unfortunately, yet again it’s the family farmer who loses because political games take priority over common-sense solutions,” Mr Marshall said.

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