New NSW bill tackles water transparency

A NSW MP has introduced a bill that would end secrecy around the ownership of water rights.
A NSW MP has introduced a bill that would end secrecy around the ownership of water rights.

NSW politicians would have to declare their ownership of any water rights under a new bill that aims to increase transparency and "end the secrecy" on entitlements across the state.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Helen Dalton introduced her bill into the lower house on Thursday as parliament prepared to debate her petition calling for the state government to lobby Canberra to establish a public national water register.

The petition, signed by more than 10,000 people, also called for a federal royal commission into the Murray Darling Basin plan and Murray Darling Basin Authority.

Ms Dalton, a food and fibre producer with her own water interests, said her bill would require NSW MPs to declare their ownership and change the water licence process so applicants couldn't hide their identity.

Further, it would change the NSW online water register to allow people to search for water holdings of people, companies and government departments.

"Secrecy is the mother of corruption and mismanagement," the Murray MP said.

"The toxic level of secrecy surrounding water ownership across NSW is one of the major reasons why we find ourselves in the mess that we are in today regarding water."

Ms Dalton said a better online water register containing information on water licences and licence holders would increase public confidence and trust.

"At present, there is less transparency over water ownership compared to other forms of ownership, such as land, property and company shares," she said.

The NSW Nationals on Thursday said they supported the petition being brought to parliament on behalf of the southern Riverina group Speak Up 4 Water.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Water Minister Melinda Pavey in a statement called for a royal commission into the Murray Darling Basin plan and authority.

They said the petition signed by concerned irrigators represented the undeniable need for greater transparency across the basin.

"Today I have met with some of these irrigators, who are at breaking point, and I confirmed that the NSW Nationals support the petition, to which they are signatories, and calls for a royal commission and national water register," Mr Barilaro said in a statement.

Australian Associated Press