The community-based Speak Up Campaign is calling on the NSW Government to stop scare tactics to defend its position on water reform.
It says claims that environmentalists may target farmers if they know who owns water are “a ridiculous defence of its indefensible position”.
“The NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey keeps trying to hoodwink the public over this issue,” Speak Up Chair Shelley Scoullar said.
“We are unsure why her Government is not supporting a common-sense approach to establishing a state water registry, but to claim it could be used to target farmers is beyond belief.
“We have to again ask: Who is the Government trying to protect with this approach?” Mrs Scoullar asked.
The water registry issue was raised by Speak Up which generated a petition that attracted more than 11,000 signatures. It wants more transparency around who is owning and trading the state’s valuable water resources.
The Government opposed a Bill tabled by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party and has introduced a version which Speak Up says does not go far enough, as it only applies to Members of Parliament acting in their personal capacity.
“An effective Bill must force politicians and their families, as well as companies and individuals to declare their water interests. We need to create a searchable online water register. If we want transparency in water trading we must know who owns the water,” Mrs Scoullar said.
She said Speak Up, representing those who signed its petition, wants a registry where water is treated like other assets such as land and shares.
“Water trading companies can access people’s details, including their water ownership, what they have in carryover and their history of use.
“So why can’t all this information be more readily available? It is hard to accept that the only reason the Government, in particular the National Party, is not prepared to support a water register is because it is trying to protect some members or supporters.
“We continue to ask: What are they trying to hide? Of course, we get no answers,” Mrs Scoullar said.
“All we are asking is for legislation to be enacted that provides the transparency that is needed. This level of accountability was all agreed in 2004 under the National Water Initiative and legislation was meant to be implemented by 2006.
“Governments, including the NSW Government, keep avoiding it. We are calling on effective legislation to be passed by the Parliament as soon as possible, and want to make it clear that the Bill supported by Ms Pavey does not go far enough.
“And her weak excuses around protecting farmers from environmentalists may con some people in the city, but don’t stack up for anyone with knowledge around water management and ownership,” Mrs Scoullar said.