MDB  - Photo source: Dept of Ag

RiceGrowers' Association of Australia and SunRice jointly call for water market reform


The Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA) and Ricegrowers Limited (SunRice) lodged our joint submission in response to the ACCC Murray-Darling Basin (Basin) water markets inquiry - interim report on Friday.  Read the submission here 

While we support the established water markets, in particular due to the wealth that has been generated by the realisation of the value of held water, we also welcome the ACCC’s key finding that the current markets require decisive and comprehensive reform.

In particular, we believe that the communities and industries dependent on annual irrigated agriculture in the southern Basin have been disproportionally and negatively impacted by the unintended and unforeseen impacts of the introduction of water market and the related reforms.

For these reasons, the RGA and SunRice have strongly supported the ACCC call for urgent, systemic and lasting changes to the governance and regulation arrangements for the Basin’s water markets.

As a priority, we are seeking the development of a single water market information platform as a one stop shop for market participants making trade decisions. This platform should be a source of clear, timely and predictable information about recent trades, water allocations, climate, system and trade rules, state sharing arrangements, storage levels and more.

We have also supported the ACCC’s finding that the water market must respect the physical limitations of the system, including through preventing excessive system losses. To this end, we urge the ACCC to give greater weight to its finding that more needs to be done to mitigate river conveyance losses and their underlying causes. Ultimately general security irrigators pay for these losses through reduced allocation, despite their actions having no direct bearing on the level of losses. This is a significant inequity of the system and something that should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

In addition, we support the ACCC finding that improved regulation of water market intermediaries is required. Future regulation must include stronger obligations to avoid conflicts of interest and prevent brokers from engaging in conduct that undermines the integrity of the water market. At the same time, this regulation should ensure the continuation of competition within the sector, and prevent an excessive cost-burden for users.

All in all, we are hopeful that the ACCC’s Final Report will set the agenda for market reform across the next decade and beyond. To ensure the success of future reform it is critical that adequate time and resources are dedicated to analysing the various reform options, and that stakeholders, including the rice industry, are adequately engaged and listened to throughout this process.

The Rice Industry is collectively one of the major Murray Darling Basin water market participants. For this reason, it was critical that our ssubmission accurately reflected the concerns of our members and growers. To ensure this, the RGA and SunRice have held a number of workshops with both the RGA Water Committee and members of the SunRice Board, and also undertook a survey of members and growers. We are incredibly thankful to all who took the time to participate in these processes.