NSW Farmers and NSW Irrigators' oppose Dalton's water register

NSW Farmers and the NSW Irrigators' Council do not support the creation of an online water register as proposed by Murray MP Helen Dalton due to privacy concerns.
NSW Farmers and the NSW Irrigators' Council do not support the creation of an online water register as proposed by Murray MP Helen Dalton due to privacy concerns.

Peak industry bodies including NSW Farmers and the NSW Irrigators' Council say they do not support the creation of a water register, as proposed by Shooters, Fishers, Farmers party member and Murray MP, Helen Dalton.

Mrs Dalton introduced the bill Water Management Amendment (Water Rights Transparency) to state parliament earlier this year but debate was delayed and the bill lapsed.

The bill called for MPs to declare their water rights, for more comprehensive water licence applications and for an easily accessible online water register, allowing people to search for the water holdings of individuals, companies and government departments.

The bill has now been referred to the Upper House Portfolio Committee No 4-Industry for inquiry and report, alongside a similar bill from NSW Water Minister, Melinda Pavey.

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In a statement to The Land NSW Farmers said it was is not opposed to water registers, but was concerned about personal information being made public.

"We are opposed to certain personal information being accessible to the public, for example a landholder's personal phone number and email address," it said in the statement.

"This is in light of what we've seen in recent times with animal activists collating farmers' personal information, including home addresses, which has been used for criminal activity, including trespass and harassment."

Interim chief executive officer of the NSW Irrigators' Council, Claire Miller, said while MPs should absolutely need to declare water ownership, NSW Irrigators did not support total transparency that shows up every "mum and dad" farmer.

"We have a privacy concern, but we also have concerns about the data being used by unscrupulous brokers and others to monitor people's water use," Ms Miller said.

In submissions to the inquiry, Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association and Namoi Water both said the call for an online water register was unnecessary as one already existed (entitlements can be searched if the water access licence number is known).

While, the Ricegrowers' Association said it did not support the development of a register of water holdings that disclosed individual water users' personal details or water holdings.

Mrs Dalton said the argument that an online register would put irrigators' privacy at risk was "absolute rubbish".

"I'm an irrigator. Anyone who walks past my farm already knows I own water," Mrs Dalton said.

"A water register would expose the Sydney traders and foreign companies who own water. Not farmers.

"We already have a land register. But a water register seems to terrify a lot of powerful people. I wonder why?"

Earlier this year, Mrs Dalton introduced a petition to parliament, which was signed by 11,000 people and called for a Royal Commission into the Murray Darling Basin and a national water register.

This story first appeared on The Land.